City Controller Alan Butkovitz spoke about how the Keystone Opportunity Zones have cost the city $10 for every tax dollar brought in, city contracts and the proposed sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works during the March 26 meeting of the Greater Bustleton Civic League.
The tax-free KOZs, set up in the late 1990s to attract businesses to Philadelphia, have cost the city $384 million in lost tax revenues and brought in only $39 million in new wage taxes, Butkovitz told league members.
It’s not a good deal for the city to be losing $10 for every dollar it brings in, the controller said.
The KOZ idea is a proposition whose workings were not actually examined. No one collects information on how it is actually working, he said.
“We want people to prove propositions,” he said.
Butkovitz said he is holding up payment to a vendor whose work paving a taxiway at Philadelphia International Airport is under par, he said. He said his office must approve all the payments the city makes, but he said the paving work of the taxiway, which planes use to get to the airport’s runway, is breaking down. He said the city should file a claim against the vendor, and not pay.
“We don’t want to encourage more shoddy work,” he said.
The controller also is not particularly happy with Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to sell the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works to UIL, a New England-based power company.
The impetus for the sale, Butkovitz said, is to get PGW pipes repaired. He said the city has not invested in repairing PGW infrastructures.
“There is an 87-year schedule to fix the pipes,” he said.
If UIL repairs PGW’s pipes, it will be entitled to recoup 110 percent of the costs from customers.
“It will lead to higher rates unless there is a way to subsidize the repairs,” Butkovitz said.
The controller said many members of City Council, which must approve a PGW sale, don’t like the UIL proposal. “I anticipate this particular proposal will not go through,” he said.
• Rich Simon, the 7th Police District’s community relations officer, told members a retirement party is planned for the 7th’s former commander, Capt. Joseph Zaffino, from 8 p.m. to midnight on Friday, May 16, at the Radisson Hotel, 2400 Old Lincoln Highway and Route 1 in Trevose. Zaffino, on the police force for 32 years, commanded the 7th for about seven years. He frequently attended league sessions.
Tickets are $50 and must be purchased in advance by May 1. Anyone interested in purchasing tickets may call Joyce McColligan, Steve Gantz, Dee Redman or Sam Hancock at the district, 215-686-3072.
• There were no zoning presentations at the March 26 meeting. The league’s president, Jack O’Hara, said two will come before members at their April 23 session. The first will be about the installation of gas pumps at BJ’s on Red Lion Road. The second will concern a variance for a home on the 800 block of Charette Road. He said he had no further information on that variance application. O’Hara said the league currently is speaking with applicants and will put fliers around the neighborhood before the April session.
• Also at the April session, nominations for board posts will be announced. The election will be conducted during the May meeting, and officers will take their seats in June. Members yearly elect their president, vice president, treasurer and recording secretary. Members typically have no meetings in July and August.
• O’Hara talked up the annual citywide cleanup slated for Saturday, April 5. He said league volunteers will concentrate their efforts on the area around Grant Avenue and Krewstown Road and at Hayes Playground on the 9900 block of President Street.
• The league is sending out notices to five area schools, asking them to nominate students to be honored for community and school service. The awards to one student each from Maternity, St. Albert’s, Anne Frank, Greenberg and Baldi schools will be made at the league’s May meeting at the American Heritage Federal Credit Union, 2068 Red Lion Road.
• The league’s next meeting will be 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at the credit union. ••