This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Naveed Ahsan
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools will launch a new campaign to end 10-year property tax abatements at a press conference today at 4:30 p.m. held at the luxury high-rise condos 10 Rittenhouse Square.
The city of Philadelphia now offers a 10-year tax abatement for building developers and owners, making them exempt from paying property taxes on new construction or renovations. PCAPS says these tax abatements will deprive the School District of Philadelphia of nearly $50 million in 2014. With that money, the group says, the District could have avoided the closure of 24 schools this past June and the layoffs of thousands of employees.
At the rally, PCAPs members will release a new white paper, Short-changing Philadelphia Students: How the 10-Year Tax Abatement Underwrites Luxury Developments and Starves Schools, which examines some of the city’s most valuable buildings that benefit from property tax abatements and the impact that they have on District schools. According to the report, just 20 buildings in Philadelphia account for almost $15 million in lost tax revenue that would otherwise go toward schools next year. Four of the 20 properties with the largest tax abatements are located in Rittenhouse Square.
“There are a number of businesses receiving tax abatements. That could, instead, help fund schools,” said PCAPS member Kia Hinton.
“Our priority should be to fund the necessary programs to make sure our children get a good education,” said Hinton, whose daughter attends Motivation High School in Southwest Philadelphia.
Hinton added that there are laws put in place to help end blight in lower-income neighborhoods, but not much has been done. Most of the development, she said, has been in the Center City area.
Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. has introduced a bill that would require the School Reform Commission to determine whether to continue the property tax abatements that go to the District beyond June 2014. The decision now rests with City Council.
As a part of the campaign, PCAPS members said, they will rally at some of the most valuable buildings in the city that benefit from these abatements. At today’s rally, two days before Halloween, attendees are asked to dress in costumes that represent corporate greed. After the protest, they will “monster march” to some of these large buildings.
Naveed Ahsan is an intern at the Notebook.