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Perplexities in Philadelphia

by Tom Branham, Washington D.C., May 2012

Philadelphia property owners face many uncertainties about their real estate assessment and resulting property taxes. The unresolved issues focus on:

 

  • The city-wide reassessment

  • The method for assessing property values

  • How much taxes will increase

 

Reassessment on Schedule

 

The Office of Property Assessment has been at work reassessing all 577,000 parcels in the city and expects to have new values ready by October 1st.

 

Meanwhile, the assessor is establishing procedures for informal appeal opportunities for taxpayers who challenge their assessments. Appeal deadlines have not been finalized.

 

Leaders Disagree

 

Mayor Michael Nutter wants to put the reassessed values in place next year and implement an Actual Value Initiative (AVI) that would generate an additional $90 million in property taxes for public schools. The AVI assesses property at 100% of value, rather than the current common level ratio, which was recently set at 25.2%

 

Some council members think it would be better to wait. They say creating a city budget months before the reassessed values are released makes it impossible to set objective millage rates. They are also concerned about the prospect of much higher property taxes.

 

Two years ago, Philadelphia property owners were hit with a 10% tax hike. Last year, another 4% was added for city schools. Both increases were considered temporary and scheduled to end this June. But the mayor's plan will result in property tax revenues rising another 8.5% compared with last year. Many property owners will experience significantly greater tax increases than the average.

 

The council and mayor have until the end of May to settle their differences and enact a tax plan for the budget year that begins July 1.