The River Wards’ tax increases under the AVI

The River Wards are likely to see tax in­creases un­der the Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive: We’ve got the num­bers by neigh­bor­hood and Zip Code.

Prop­erty own­ers can ex­pect to get their ac­tu­al value as­sess­ments in the mail this week, and the city’s fisc­al watch­dog pre­dicted there will plenty of win­ners and losers when it comes to pay­ing prop­erty taxes next year.

Most of the big losers, ac­cord­ing to City Con­trol­ler Alan Butkovitz’s ana­lys­is, un­der the city’s Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive live in and around Cen­ter City and South Philly.

On av­er­age, own­ers of single-fam­ily prop­er­ties in Fishtown, Port Rich­mond and North­ern Liber­ties are likely to see tax in­creases next year when a new tax rate will be ap­plied to the new as­sess­ments.

Butkovitz based his ana­lys­is on a tax rate for 2014 set at $1,250 per $100,000 in as­sessed value, or 1.25 mills, as May­or Nut­ter has asked in his dis­cus­sion with City Coun­cil.

In Fishtown, if that rate holds, single-fam­ily home own­ers could see their taxes jump an av­er­age of $452, or 39.2 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the con­trol­ler.

In North­ern Liber­ties, the av­er­age bump up will be $30, or 0.8 per­cent. In Port Rich­mond, an av­er­age in­crease of $254, or 30.7 per­cent, will be likely next year if the 1.25 mills rate is used.

Those num­bers would drop if a lower rate is ad­op­ted or rise if a high­er rate is ap­plied.

“It’s not as pain­ful as I had an­ti­cip­ated,” said City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on (D-6th dist.). When coun­cil mem­bers were look­ing at AVI and pro­ject­ing tax rates last year, Hen­on said, the rate looked to be much high­er and its im­pact more ex­pens­ive to tax­pay­ers.

“The con­trol­ler’s num­bers seem cor­rect, but they are us­ing av­er­ages and, there­fore, can be a little mis­lead­ing,” said City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.)

The city mailed out in­di­vidu­al as­sess­ments on Fri­day.

Bukovitz’s staff’s pro­jec­tions were cal­cu­lated from the Of­fice of Prop­erty As­sess­ment re­cords. The con­trol­ler said these num­bers would change if the tax rate goes high­er, and, al­though he be­lieves the rate should be set lower, he said high­er is more likely.

The rate, he said, “is a mov­ing tar­get.”

“We have been push­ing for the low­est pos­sible rate, and this rate has been go­ing down in re­sponse to pres­sure,” he said in a phone in­ter­view Feb. 14.

“I think 1.25 [mills] is still too high,” Squilla stated.

However, if the tax rate con­tin­ues to move down, the city would have to in­crease its rev­en­ues with oth­er taxes.

Coun­cil mem­bers are sub­ject to cross-pres­sures from with­in their con­stitu­en­cies, he said. Res­id­ents of areas in which taxes will rise the most will seek re­lief, and whatever re­lief is put in­to law, Butkovitz said, will push the tax rate up.

The most com­monly men­tioned re­lief is a $30,000 homestead ex­emp­tion. For res­id­ents who live in their prop­er­ties, $30,000 would be cut from the new as­sess­ment be­fore the tax rate is ap­plied.

“At a glimpse,” Hen­on said, “In my dis­trict, I’m bet­ter off with the homestead ex­emp­tion. If the tax rate is 1.25 [mills] to 1.35 [mills], I’m still bet­ter off with homestead.”

An­oth­er is a “means-based” gentri­fic­a­tion re­lief for people on fixed in­comes whose prop­erty val­ues have skyrock­eted. Also, City Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quinones Sanc­hez (D-7th dist.) said if state le­gis­lat­ors al­low Phil­adelphia to go after the out-of-the-city as­sets of tax-de­lin­quent prop­erty own­ers, that would be a big be­ne­fit to the city.

The big­ger com­mer­cial prop­er­ties that already are as­sessed close to ac­tu­al value will see tax de­creases, but the own­ers of small busi­ness prop­er­ties likely will see their taxes go up, she said in a phone in­ter­view. Coun­cil mem­bers will get com­mer­cial prop­erty fig­ures soon, she said.

Butkovitz sees the res­id­en­tial own­ers pay­ing 60 per­cent of the city’s total prop­erty taxes un­der AVI. They now pay 54 per­cent of the total.

Jeff Horn­stein ana­lyzed the AVI num­bers for Butkovitz. Ac­cord­ing to his fig­ures, 169,360 of the city’s 450,798 single-fam­ily prop­er­ties, or 38 per­cent, will see tax de­creases un­der AVI.  He figured that 275,700 will see tax hikes. Most in­creases will be $400 or less, but 36,838 will see in­creases of $1,000 or more.

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

Ex­pec­ted im­pact, by ZIP Code, on prop­erty taxes  in 2014 when the new as­sess­ments are used and a tax rate of $1,250 per $100,000 in valu­ation is ap­plied:

19123 – $43 av­er­age in­crease, or 1.3 per­cent;

19125 – $548 av­er­age in­crease, or 51.5 per­cent;

19134 – $144 av­er­age in­crease, or 20.4 per­cent;

19137 – $280 av­er­age in­crease, or 22.9 per­cent.

Source: Alan Butkovitz.

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