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Tax Abatements: Great For Comcast, Less Great For Schools

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Though the Ten Year Tax Abatement has been credited with sparking a building boom in Philly, it's also been (partially) blamed for the school funding crisis. Supporters of the abatement say that it's necessary to gradually grow Philadelphia's tax base, whereas critics feel that it's a gift to large corporations, developers, and those who can afford pricey new homes at the expense of the school district.

The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating For Public Schools (PCAPS) released a white paper at the end of October with their take on the situation. They found that the 20 most costly buildings (those with the highest tax assesments and therefore the highest tax abatements) got to keep $26.1M instead of paying it in property taxes ($15M of which would go to the school district). The list of the top 20 tax abated properties includes The Sugarhouse casino and the Comcast Center. The study found that the lost taxes from the Comcast Center alone could have been used to pay nine teachers or twelve nurses.

These criticisms are countered by a study put out earlier this year that showed that the ten year tax abatement did spur a building boom in Philly. The study showed that while new construction declined in the suburbs of Philadelphia, new construction within the city greatly increased.
· 10-year tax abatements prove costly [Philadelphia Business Journal]
· Tax Abatements: Not Just For Yuppies [Curbed Philly]
· Short-Changing Philadelphia Students: How The 10-Year Tax Abatement Underwrites Luxury Developments And Starves Schools [PCAPS]