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Getting out to meet with residents

Council took its budget hearing on the road, to find out what Tioga residents thought.

Residents came before City Council with a familiar list of requests and concerns about the city's proposed fiscal plan during Wednesday night's community budget hearing in Tioga.

Eleven Council members listened to more than two hours of testimony about the city's shift to market-rate property assessments and funding for public schools, recreational programs for youth, and local development groups.

Sheila Simmons, a member of Parent Power, urged Council to invest in youth.

"We know that, in our city, where poverty is high and family stability is often too low, school cannot do it all," Simmons said. "I call on you for help in strengthening school communities."

The hearing was the second that Council has held away from City Hall since the budget season began in March. Council must pass the budget by June.

"In years past, predominantly the public testimony was held in City Council chambers in City Hall, and we understand that there was a challenge for many people to make it down there after a hard day's work," Council President Darrell L. Clarke said at the start of the hearing, at the Salvation Army Kroc Center on Wissahickon Avenue near Ruffner Street. "Parking down there is much too high, and the Council members made a decision, where possible, to get down in the neighborhood and hold official Council budget hearings."

Several people urged Council to find money to support community development corporations. "Philly needs stronger and more CDCs," said Howard Mosley of the Manayunk Development Corp. "We're your partners in building a better Philadelphia."

One issue of contention was Mayor Nutter's proposal to shift to a property tax system that uses market value assessments, an effort known as the Actual Value Initiative. The plan also proposes taking in an extra $90 million in revenue in property taxes in the coming fiscal year. Critics call the move a backdoor tax hike, while the administration says it is just capturing an increase in property values.

Resident Gina Snyder wanted Council to make sure provisions were in place to protect low-income homeowners.

"I think there is a particular concern as we're moving toward the citywide assessment based on actual value that homeowners are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place, and that they purchased or own their home at a value that they could afford and see much higher increases in property values around them," Snyder said.

Council's third community budget hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget will be May 1 at the Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center, 2646 Kensington Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m.