21,600 homeowners request AVI reviews

— 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 jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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