HomeNewsHenon, O’Neill weigh in on controversial tax abatement

Henon, O’Neill weigh in on controversial tax abatement

City Council returned to session last week. Members reached an agreement with the mayor to fund affordable housing, and a resolution was adopted to rename block in honor of fallen officer.

City Council returned to session last week, and the future of the controversial 10-year property tax abatement on new construction could be in jeopardy.

A bill was introduced Thursday by 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass to repeal the abatement, which critics say mainly benefits wealthy developers and takes money away from schools. The tax break is meant to spur investment in neighborhoods around the city.

Bass’ bill was sent to committee.

Sixth District Councilman Bobby Henon was coy about whether he will support the move to scrap the tax abatement program.

“If and how to adjust the 10-Year Property Tax Abatement will be an important ongoing conversation in Council this fall,” Henon said in a statement.

“I am taking time to give careful consideration to all the proposals and suggestions being offered — as well as the data and projections available — before supporting any plan,” he continued. “I am confident that my colleagues and I will settle on an approach that nurtures both future development and the well-being of all our neighborhoods.”

Tenth District Councilman Brian O’Neill said he believes the tax abatement program has supported development in a city with a high tax climate.

“We need every tool we have to create more development,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill also said a deal struck last week between City Council and Mayor Jim Kenney could mean the abatement sticks around.

The agreement uses money collected on properties with expiring tax abatements to fund affordable housing. O’Neill said that if the tax abatement is repealed, the city would need to find another revenue stream for the Housing Trust Fund.

“I think that kind of handcuffs the real possibility of anything happening to the abatement,” he said.

As part of the deal, Council recalled the contentious 1 percent construction tax proposal, which Kenney declined to sign. The tax would have raised more than $100 million for affordable housing over the next five years.

Officials project the agreement will provide about $70 million for the trust fund in the next five years, with a majority of the money coming from taxes collected on properties that benefited from the abatement the year prior.

In other City Council news, Council at the Sept. 13 meeting adopted a resolution sponsored by Henon to name the 2900 block of Holme Ave. after Police Officer Timothy Simpson.

Simpson, who was a Holme Circle resident, was killed on duty in Port Richmond in 2008 after being struck by a stolen car whose driver was eluding police. Simpson was 46. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com

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