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I post my sudden thoughts and second thoughts here from time to time -- usually having something to do with Philadelphia and governmental accountability, but occaisionally on something more (or less) interesting. Check out my Recent Writing for issues of the day and take a look at some more in-depth writing in Brett's Books. Or, view the Bulldog Budget, which represents a wonderfully visual way to conceive and account for how our government works (or doesn't work) for us.

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Most recently, I wrote
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Lawbreaking Finance Honchos Cost Philadelphia Millions

The same cast of characters in City Hall who lost track of more than $30 million and who compiled hundreds of millions of dollars of financial errors are at it again. While their past actions have been largely errors on city ledgers, their most-recent misadventures will have tangible impacts for Philadelphia residents. This time, the hubris and lawbreaking of high-ranking Kenney administration finance officials will cost the city and school district nearly $50 million in refunds that must be provided to property owners who were illegally taxed by the city in 2018. Every dollar of the $50 million is a dollar that now cannot go to reduce violence, improve schools, clean streets, or reduce the high burden of city taxes.

In a ruling with wide-ranging implications for city real-estate taxation, a Philadelphia judge confirmed that, indeed, taxation must be uniform and the city may not pick and choose which properties to revalue for tax purposes in a given year. The judge concluded that, when city finance officials decided to concentrate re-assessment activities on commercial properties to generate additional real estate tax revenues in 2018, the action violated the Pennsylvania State Constitution. In his ruling, the judge concluded:

"The City claims there is no evidence of political pressure on the Office of Property Assessment to finish the Tax Year 2018 reassessments without a complete reassessment of all properties. There is ample evidence of such political pressure. The court therefore concludes the desire and demand of City Council for revenue from a targeted reassessment of commercial properties was a substantial motivating factor."

He then ordered the city to refund tens of millions of dollars to aggrieved commercial-property owners.