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Philadelphia Won't Revalue Properties in 2020

by Tom Branham, Washington D.C., January 2020

 

City leaders in Philadelphia have decided not to complete a planned real estate reassessment. Instead, the Office of Property Assessment (OPA) will complete its next citywide revaluation in 2021, to take effect in tax year 2022.

 

Accuracy Questioned

 

The OPA had planned to use a trending methodology to complete a 2021 assessment, which would have been completed by the end of March. That method, which was also used to assign 2020 values, involves studying trends in the real estate market and applying them to geographic zones in the city.

 

Philadelphia’s Director of Finance, Rob Dubow said the trending work for 2021 had been about 90% complete when OPA determined that it would not meet industry standards for accuracy. So, the values assigned in 2019 will simply carry forward through 2021.

 

The decision not to reassess properties for 2021 comes as the OPA faces ongoing scrutiny. An independent audit found flaws in the city’s assessment practices. In July, a judge ruled that the city and school district must repay nearly $50 million in property taxes because commercial properties were unconstitutionally targeted in the 2018 reassessment. The city has appealed that ruling to Commonwealth Court.

 

Taxes Can Still Increase

 

The lack of reassessment does not necessarily mean that property tax bills will remain the same. In cases of renovation, new construction, errors, or expiring 10-year tax abatements, the assessments will change.

 

Final tax bills will also depend on whether the mayor proposes a tax rate hike as part of next year’s budget, and whether the City Council votes to approve it in June.

 

Looking Ahead

 

Without a revaluation to complete this year, the OPA will spend more time implementing a Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system, which is on track to go live in February, It will allow the agency to complete mass appraisals for 2022 instead of using the trending method. Philadelphia paid about $9 million to implement the new system.

 

The OPA has also worked on other improvements including hiring more employees to help improve the accuracy of assessments. The city will soon select a vendor to improve the tracking of building condition and construction quality, which should also make assessments more in line with market values.