— The city expects to finish its first-level reviews of the new property assessments by August.
If you don’t like the new assessment you recently got from the city, you’re not alone.
By last Thursday, the city’s Office of Property Assessment had received 21,600 requests to review the new valuations, according to Marisa Waxman, OPA’s director of policy and programs.
In mid-February, the city mailed out more than a half-million full-market value property assessments that will be used in computing 2014 property taxes.
“The [previous] assessed value of real estate in Philadelphia does not reflect reality,” Michael Piper, OPA’s deputy administrator, told members of the Greater Bustleton Civic League on March 27. “If it’s unfair to anyone, it’s unfair to everybody.”
City officials have said adopting the Actual Value Initiative, which uses 100 percent values to compute taxes, is fairer than the current percentage system. But not everybody agrees, particularly residents who believe their houses have been overvalued.
Piper told league members the OPA tried to assess properties carefully by looking at their locations, sizes, conditions and the effects of age as well as sales figures.
“But we knew we would make some mistakes,” he said.
That’s why the reassessment notices were accompanied by the forms needed to request reviews of the new numbers. Piper said OPA will send employees out to check on properties after reviews are requested. The office will make adjustments if mistakes are found.
Piper said OPA would send out notices that they’ve received review requests after the March 31 deadline. He said reviews should be completed by August.
He told members to call 215-686-9200 if they had more questions.
On the same night last week, city employees answered questions from 170 Northeast residents at an information session at the Philadelphia Protestant Home on Tabor Avenue.
The 20 municipal workers who were fielding questions were from many city agencies, said Catie Wolfgang of the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement.
“It’s all hands on deck,” she said.
John Dick, who has lived on the 6400 block of Oakley St. for 46 years, attended the session, but said he didn’t get the concrete answers he was seeking because “everything is up in the air.”
Certainly two things still are uncertain — the city’s tax rate and the size of the homestead exemption.
The exemption is shaved from an assessment before it is multiplied by the tax rate. Neither the amount of the exemption nor the tax rate have been set yet by City Council.
In his March 14 budget proposal, Mayor Michael Nutter asked Council to approve a $15,000 homestead exemption and a tax rate of $1,320.40 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
Last year, the state Legislature gave the city the OK for a $30,000 homestead exemption, a figure that City Councilman Bobby Henon (D-6th dist.) wants. He said council approved that amount, but it wasn’t applied to 2013 taxes because the city had yet to send out property reassessments.
He said he sent mailings to everyone in his district who might see their taxes increase under the AVI. He said he encouraged them in the mailings and in many public appearances not only to appeal assessments they don’t like, but also to apply for homestead exemptions.
Henon said he was surprised, but not disappointed, by the number of those review requests the city received by last week.
“I’m glad,” he said in a March 28 phone interview. “I am happy to see people are paying attention.”
Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez (D-7th dist.) said she was hoping more residents would apply for reviews.
“The real concern is Homestead,” the councilwoman said in an e-mail to the Northeast Times. “I still have nearly 22,000 households eligible that have not applied. We need folks to apply otherwise folks will see an increase in my district.”
City Councilman Brian O’Neill (R-10th dist.) said about 29,000 of his district’s residents have applied for the exemption, but he believes more could.
O’Neill regards the number of assessment review requests low, he said in a March 29 interview.
“I thought it would be higher,” he said. ••
An AVI calculator:
Residents can try to figure out what their taxes will be by going online and using avicalculator.phila.gov. They can experiment with various tax rates and homestead exemption numbers to get a range of results.
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org