Councilman Domb, running for re-election, takes heat over 10-year tax abatement

215 People's Alliance
Photo credit Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As Philadelphia's primary election gets closer, the 10-year tax abatement is emerging as a major issue for progressive candidates, putting one incumbent in an uncomfortable spotlight.

Before he was councilman at-large, Allan Domb was known as the "Condo King," having earned a high net worth in local real estate. Many of his properties are tax abated. 

Chenjerai Kumanyika, an activist with the group 215 People's Alliance, estimated that's helped Domb avoid $541,000 in property taxes over the last 10 years.

Roughly "$300,000 of that would have gone to the School District of Philadelphia," he said. "That's the context that we're talking about — a context in which people are saying we don't have the funds to fund our schools."

The tax abatement, which eliminates taxes on improvements and new construction, was a measure enacted in 2000 to encourage development. Opponents say it's outlived its usefulness and should be eliminated. 

"Can Allan Domb actually rule and make judgments and issue legislation that's going to be fair for working class Philadelphians when he's involved in all these properties and stands to make so much money?" Kumanyika asked.

Supporters say elimination would result in long-term losses as development slows. But even Domb agrees the abatement should be scaled back.

"Two months ago, I introduced legislation to amend the abatement," he noted. "I agree that the abatement should be amended, but not ended."

Domb declined to directly comment on 215's estimate of his personal gain from the tax.