City Council adopted a responsible $3.9 billion operating budget Thursday, and with it the resources necessary to preserve all vital city services for the coming fiscal year. We were faced with a difficult choice among many bad options. The mayor requested $146 million in new revenue, generated from a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and a flat $300-per-household trash fee. Both taxes are regressive. They do not take into account a taxpayer's ability to pay and would disproportionately hurt low-income individuals and those on fixed incomes. We were not convinced about the impact of the tax on people's consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and it would unduly affect retailers, who would pass the tax on to consumers across all products.
Council passed a budget that included $124.2 million in new revenue and adjustments that left the city with a $42.5 million fund balance. This was done through $11 million in revenue enhancements, from an increase in the commercial trash fee, a tax on some tobacco products, and a two-year, 9.9 percent property-tax increase, the first property- tax increase in 21 years. The real-estate tax is the most equitable option for taxpayers. If your property tax bill is $1,000, you would pay $99 more per year, saving about $200 per year over the mayor's $300 trash fee. Numerous local, state, and federal programs provide relief for low-income families and seniors. Others could deduct the amount on their tax returns, which they could not do with the trash fee.
No Council member wants to raise taxes or fees. This was the least painful alternative to keep essential city services operating while meeting our mandate to pass a balanced budget.
Anna C. Verna, president
Marian B. Tasco, majority leader
Darrell L. Clarke, majority whip
Philadelphia City Council