Northeast Times

Squilla presents bill that will spread impact of AVI

Mark Squilla does not want to rush in­to push­ing 100 per­cent prop­erty as­sess­ments on city res­id­ents. The South Philly coun­cil­man has in­tro­duced a bill that would spread the im­pact of the Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive over three years.

Squilla’s meas­ure, if passed by City Coun­cil and signed by May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter, would spread the im­pact of real-value as­sess­ments over 2014, 2015 and 2016. It would soften the blow of steep tax in­creases for res­id­ents who have seen dra­mat­ic prop­erty value in­creases be­cause of AVI, but it would also  spread tax de­creases over three years.

The pro­posed delay is an im­port­ant step, Squilla said, giv­en that so many of the new prop­erty val­ues might not re­flect what they ac­tu­ally are worth. Fix­ing what’s wrong, he said, will take years, so why start char­ging people high­er taxes right away? Or, even worse, why start giv­ing them tax de­creases that might turn in­to in­creases?

“We want to make sure we aren’t tax­ing people on as­sess­ments that aren’t cor­rect,” Squilla said in an April 5 in­ter­view.

The idea be­hind basing taxes on the mar­ket val­ues of prop­er­ties rather than on par­tial val­ues is to make those taxes fairer than they’ve been. But there are more than 20,000 res­id­ents who don’t agree they’ve got­ten fair shakes un­der AVI, and they’ve filed re­quests for re­views of their new prop­erty mar­ket val­ues. 

Squilla (D-1st dist.) is look­ing for sup­port from City Coun­cil’s oth­er 16 mem­bers. He’s got some his­tory do­ing that. In 2012, he said, he pro­posed post­pon­ing AVI’s im­ple­ment­a­tion un­til this year. He said that, ini­tially, he was alone, but even­tu­ally, coun­cil mem­bers voted to delay AVI.

Why the delay? In­form­a­tion about the total value of city prop­er­ties was not com­plete in 2012, the coun­cil­man said. 

“Thank God, we didn’t do it last year,” he said. “It would have been chaos.”

This year, Squilla said, coun­cil mem­bers are hear­ing about AVI mis­takes from their con­stitu­ents.

“I think there is more aware­ness of over- and un­der­assess­ments,” he said. “And we don’t even know if these as­sess­ments are right. We all know this is go­ing to take sev­er­al years to get right.”

Mis­takes were ex­pec­ted, Mi­chael Piper, the Of­fice of Prop­erty As­sess­ment’s deputy ad­min­is­trat­or, said last month. And the city is ready to see some of the new as­sess­ments re­duced. City Fin­ance Dir­ect­or Rob Dubow last month said Nut­ter’s 2014 budget in­cludes $32 mil­lion to cov­er tax rev­en­ues lost when new as­sess­ments are lowered.

Since AVI will take time, Squilla said, he feels im­ple­ment­ing it should take some time, too. 

“The prob­lem is big­ger than something we can do in just one year,” he said. “OPA says they’re go­ing to go back every year un­til they get this right.”

Squilla needs eight more coun­cil mem­bers to sup­port his phase-in meas­ure, Bill 130254. If the meas­ure passes 9-8, and then is ve­toed by May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter, Squilla will have to find three more votes be­cause it takes 12 votes to over­ride a may­or­al veto.

Kenyatta John­son (D-2nd dist.) sees the prob­lems Squilla sees.

“It’s in­sane to move for­ward with so many com­plaints of in­ac­cur­ate as­sess­ments,” he wrote in an e-mail to the North­east Times.

W. Wilson Goode Jr. (D-at large), however, doesn’t want to wait.

“Tax­pay­ers who are due to re­ceive a tax de­crease be­cause their prop­er­ties were pre­vi­ously over-as­sessed should not have to wait for a lower bill,” he wrote in an e-mail to the North­east Times.

Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quinones Sanc­hez (D-7th dist.) wants to see how Squilla can make his pro­pos­al work.

“I agree con­cep­tu­ally that we have to min­im­ize the im­pact for res­id­ents and will re­main open to all ideas,” she wrote in an e-mail to the North­east Times

First-level as­sess­ment re­views should be fin­ished by Au­gust, Piper told Great­er Bustleton Civic League mem­bers last month.  Res­id­ents who don’t like those res­ults can ap­peal to the Board of Re­vi­sion of Taxes. The BRT likely will see the bulk of those ap­peals as the Oct. 7 dead­line ap­proaches, said Carla Pa­gan, the board’s ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or. Be­fore­hand, she said, people who missed the April 1 OPA re­view re­quest dead­line might start con­tact­ing the BRT. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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