Yo, Philly exile: Keep your thoughts in Virginia
Regarding Lydia Selwood’s letter last week, Shame on CLIP for going too far:
Why do I have to read an opinion of someone who moved from Philly decades ago and is “glad” that she no longer lives here?
I don’t care one red cent what Lydia Selwood thinks about Philly, or CLIP, or anything else. Do you know why? Because she left and is “glad” about it.
Hey Lydia, maybe if you hadn’t left, this would be a better place. I’m tired of people who leave and then sit off in the distance judging everything that goes on here with an almost satisfactory tone.
Why did you feel the need to tell every one of us how glad you were to be gone? Go worry about Harrisonburg, Va. — we’ll all be fine here.
Give 9/11 terrorists the ultimate justice
The terrorists who are on trial for the murders of over 3,000 Americans in the 9/11 attacks should have been executed instead of being put on trial. Of course, this isn’t done in our country, but they deserve it. They spent years in prison at taxpayer expense.
If the trial ends in a death penalty, let’s execute them fast. No lingering in a prison for years and continuous appeals.
Dying by injection, hanging or shooting is too easy. Let’s bring back the electric chair and let them burn. A better way is to bring them to the highest building in New York City and throw them off from the top. What a glorious way for them to die. Allah be with them as they fall to the ground.
Jerry Foglia Sr.
School vouchers now and forever
If the raucous May 31 meeting of the School Reform Commission proved anything, it is this: nobody — not the students, parents, teachers or administrators — nobody, is happy with the current public school system.
A $2.5 billion (that’s billion, with a “b”) fiscal year 2013 budget was passed amid catcalls and denunciations, and yet that astounding amount of money is not enough.
The district is borrowing $218 million and counting on another $94 million coming from the mayor’s controversial property tax plan (which most certainly is not a sure thing).
This is not a polemic against public schools. I and three of my four children are successful graduates of Philadelphia’s public schools. My youngest is currently a sixth-grader in the Philadelphia public school system. I have always been an advocate of effective public education, but what we are seeing in city public schools is no longer tolerable. That’s why I strongly support school choice, and have always supported it.
According to the Commonwealth Foundation, more than half of Philadelphia’s 249 schools are failing. Many public schools are not safe. Last year, more than 4,000 violent incidents were reported involving both students and staff. In Pennsylvania public schools last year, 10 rapes were reported. All of them occurred in Philadelphia. Obviously this is outrageous.
According to an education expert, Dr. Jay Green, school voucher programs have a positive impact on the public schools in the areas where they are offered. Vouchers are directly linked to improvements in reading and math scores, and higher graduation rates. Vouchers save taxpayers money; let’s be honest: can anything be worse than the runaway spending and poor performance of the current system?
Protecting the status quo is indefensible. I am no “Johnny-come-lately” to this issue. I have always supported school vouchers, and when elected to the legislature this fall, I will join the fight to expand school choice in Philadelphia. Frankly, there is no other choice and the facts bear this out.
Mr. Taubenberger, who lost to Michael Nutter in the 2007 mayor’s race, is the Republican candidate in the 172nd Legislative District and president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Whose side is the mayor on?
Has anyone really independent of the School District of Philadelphia reviewed its budgeted numbers? They are projected based on a lot of assumptions allegedly resulting in a five-year deficit of over $1 billion.
Going back to when Arlene Ackerman was in charge and reviewing her 2009 five-year plan, did it show a $629 million deficit for 2011? Did it show a deficit in 2012 and 2013 as large as they are projecting now after two “temporary” real estate tax increases? Is the answer “No”?
Can we allow one of the greatest educational and financial decisions of this entire city to be made within a matter of only a few months with assumptions going out another five years?
Mayor Nutter wants the district to contract out union jobs to non-union members and non-profits. Non-profits are organizations that can pay large salaries to the CEOs, retain “profits” and not pay any taxes. Did you know that Lisa Nutter, the mayor’s wife, is the president of a non-profit doing business with the school district and earning six digits? Non-union members are “newbys” that are lower paid and will have to learn the job if they stay around long enough.
Mayor Nutter wants your children to go to charter schools and other schools not managed by the school district. Even though charter schools have been around for over a decade, where does his daughter go to school? Can anyone say Masterman High?
I guess the mayor wants us to do as he says, not as he does.
Boyle amendment would stop a back-door tax hike
By Brendan F. Boyle
After two consecutive property tax increases in the last two years, residents of the Northeast and across the city are still grappling with the effects of a larger tax bill, even as their incomes have remained nearly flat. With this in mind, one would hope that the priority of the Nutter administration would be to promote stability for those who pay their fair share of property taxes year after year.
However, we are instead witnessing an attempt to solve the short-term fiscal problems of city government on the backs of homeowners yet again, this time in the form of the Actual Value Initiative, or AVI. This citywide reassessment would meet a stated revenue goal of $94 million for the city by reassessing properties at their full market value. The Nutter administration and city officials have argued that AVI is necessary to account for changes in property values throughout the city over the last several years.
What is left unsaid, however, is that the reassessment will result in higher tax bills for some and lower tax bills for others, meaning that additional revenue to reach the $94 million goal will come disproportionately from the pockets of only a fraction of our residents.
Additionally, the two previous tax increases that were originally billed as temporary would become permanent, breaking a promise made by the city when these increases were originally adopted.
This is an unacceptable plan for the people of Philadelphia, considering that the city is currently owed over $450 million in delinquent property taxes. Instead of using policy reform to try and capture revenue, wouldn’t it make more sense to first go after those who owe the city money under the existing tax structure?
Before attempting to plug revenue shortfalls with even more hard-earned taxpayer dollars, our city officials need to first demonstrate that they have exhausted their resources in pursuing money that is already owed.
Given the relatively low rate of property tax collection in Philadelphia compared to other major cities, the burden of proof should be on the city to explain why working families in the Northeast and elsewhere should be forced to pay what could amount to several hundred dollars in additional taxes every year when so much revenue the city is entitled to remains uncollected.
Throughout my district, I have heard from many homeowners who are having difficulty paying their existing property taxes and are ineligible for income-based rate freezes or payment plans. These are longtime residents of our neighborhoods who have paid their fair share and been responsible homeowners for years, and for many of them, the city’s plan could mean the difference between keeping their heads above water and being priced out of their houses.
To address these concerns, I have introduced an amendment that would block the city from using the AVI as a “back door” tax increase. My legislation would ensure any revision to the city’s existing property tax system would remain revenue neutral, guaranteeing that any increase in assessed property values through AVI is offset by either lower tax rates or other measures so that the amount of revenue going to the city remains unchanged. My legislation would effectively kill the planned $94 million property tax increase.
It is essential that any increase in assessed property values is counterbalanced by relief for taxpayers elsewhere. Allowing this reassessment to move forward without eliminating the incentive to use AVI to obtain more revenue for the city will only invite this same behavior again and again. For the sake of keeping the cost of long-term home ownership in our communities within reason, we cannot allow this to happen.
Our short-term fiscal problems as a city cannot be solved by continuously drawing from the well of property tax revenue.
Every additional dollar that goes toward higher property taxes is a dollar that cannot be spent to fuel our local economy, creating jobs, helping our businesses grow and investing in the future prosperity of our neighborhoods.
While there is no doubt that we face long-term fiscal challenges as a city, it is important that city officials learn to operate within a fiscal framework that limits the tax burden placed on working families. The long term livability and affordability of the Northeast and Philadelphia depends on it.
Brendan F. Boyle, a Democrat, represents the 170th Legislative District.
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