City Council adopts $3.8 billion budget, cigarette tax

City Council members gave their final OK to a $3.8 billion 2014 operating budget on Thursday before recessing for the summer.

With the new budget, homeowners will be able to figure out how much they will be chipping into that big city kitty. It’s just some arithmetic — a subtraction followed by a multiplication.

Residents received new property assessments earlier this year. A householder who lives in his or her home, and applied for and was granted a homestead exemption, can deduct $30,000 from that assessment. Then that number is multiplied by the tax rate of 3.14 percent. That rate equals $1,340 for every $100,000 of assessed value.

City Council members have predicted most Northeast Philadelphia homeowners will see their 2014 taxes dip a bit, stay the same as they were this year or go up only slightly.

The new property values and a much lower tax rate were products of the Actual Value Initiative — the first citywide market-value assessment.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke described the budget as a collaboration between officials of Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration, Council members and staff.

Some City Council members, including Clarke, are satisfied with the new market value assessment, but say there are still questions about the accuracy of some assessments.

ldquo;I am pleased the administration and Council arrived at agreement over the Actual Value Initiative, which brings overdue fairness to thousands of Philadelphia homeowners whose property values were overassessed,” Clarke said in a news release.

“However, many of us on Council remain concerned about the accuracy of the assessment process. We hope our legislation that would refine standards and increase transparency at the Office of Property Assessment will be signed by the mayor and fully implemented by the administration.”

On Thursday, Council also OK’d bills that will allow income-eligible residents whose tax payments rise because of AVI to defer their tax payments, and offer some tax relief to long-time owner occupants.

Council also approved a $2-a-pack cigarette tax, but the state Legislature must approve the tax before it takes effect. The extra revenue is intended to help rescue the Philadelphia School District, which is facing a $304 million shortfall in its budget for next school year.

Council already had approved a set of measures that would provide more than $1 billion to the School District of Philadelphia. The city budget includes approximately $74.5 million in new revenue for city schools, more than the $60 million the district requested. The district is also seeking $120 million in extra funding from Harrisburg and more than $100 million in givebacks from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215–354–3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com