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Controller said to be on AVI 'scare tour'

The city’s new property-tax system is confusing enough but when you add politics into the mix, things can get kind of messy.

THE CITY'S NEW property-tax system is confusing enough, but when you add politics into the mix, things can get kind of messy.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who is considered a 2015 mayoral hopeful and is a vocal critic of the implementation of property-tax reform, has been stirring up fear about the Actual Value Initiative, according to several sources. One insider, who asked to remain anonymous, went so far as to call it an AVI "scare tour."

Butkovitz was invited to an AVI community meeting last week at the Nazarene Baptist Church in Nicetown, where sources said he told the crowd of 200 people that they should save money for an attorney or else they could be thrown out of their homes.

"There are a few things we need to keep in mind," Mayor Nutter said. "He's running for re-election, and to the extent that he thinks that being a doomsday crier protects himself from citizens who may be upset by their assessments and a possible increase in their taxes, he may assume these comments are in his interest."

When asked about his comments, Butkovitz initially said he couldn't recall what he had said, noting it was a two-hour meeting and there was "a lot of give and take."

"I probably said some people will be forced out of their neighborhoods," he said.

Butkovitz provided a 20-minute recording of his the first part of his presentation, which he said explained his analysis of the assessments' flaws. On the recording, Butkovitz discusses potential tax bills with a 1.5 percent tax rate. Nutter has proposed a 1.32 percent rate.

"The whole assessment was sold on the idea that assessments were unfair in the city," he said on the recording. "Looks like the errors are worse under this new assessment than they were before."

He said residents should team with the Crosstown Coalition of Taxpayers, which may file a class-action lawsuit. They have money, he said, and "they have the same idea as you. They want to throw this out."

Butkovitz disagrees that he was stirring fear over AVI.

"There seems to be some argument out there that I don't have the right to help people understand this or advocate for protections."