Could you hear the sound of fel­low North­east res­id­ents ex­hal­ing last week as more in­form­a­tion began to emerge about the new prop­erty tax as­sess­ments?

The fig­ures from the city con­trol­ler’s of­fice, as re­por­ted by our John Loftus, show that av­er­age prop­erty taxes will dip slightly in this part of the city, though some will rise by a small amount. Park­wood may be among our hard­est-hit neigh­bor­hoods, but even there, the av­er­age tax bill might rise by $77 a year.

All of this is pre­lim­in­ary, of course, be­cause prop­erty tax as­sess­ments are just half of the equa­tion. The oth­er half is the tax rate, and that will be up to City Coun­cil to de­cide. When it does, res­id­ents will mul­tiply their as­sess­ment fig­ure by the tax rate to get their 2014 tax bill.

The Nut­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion has said that a tax rate of 1.25 mills will bring in the same amount of rev­en­ue to the city as the year be­fore, and that is one of the goals. But the fi­nal tax rate will be af­fected by wheth­er the coun­cil de­cides to grant ex­emp­tions that would ease the tax bur­dens on some prop­er­ties, but also drive up the over­all tax rate. It’s a bal­an­cing act, and one with big con­sequences.

Al­though the North­east and oth­er stable neigh­bor­hoods es­caped the biggest im­pact of this re­vamped tax sys­tem — called the Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive — oth­er parts of the city will fare much worse. Pity those who live in Schuylkill/South­w­est Cen­ter City, where tax bills are likely to be $2,110 high­er in 2014 than in 2013. South Phil­adelphia’s Bella Vista/South­wark had the du­bi­ous hon­or of com­ing in second in a list of 450,000 res­id­en­tial prop­er­ties ana­lyzed by The Phil­adelphia In­quirer. Tax bills there could rise by an av­er­age of $1,428.

This is not chump change.

These tax bills could drive people out of their homes and halt the tra­di­tion­al turnover of neigh­bor­hoods as older folks die or move out of their homes and young fam­il­ies with chil­dren move in. If you’ve walked along Passy­unk Av­en­ue in South Philly lately, you’ve seen the turnover in sharp re­lief, as an Itali­an men’s cloth­ing shop is neigh­bor to a new craft beer store.

Al­though we are re­lieved that res­id­ents of the North­east will not have to face huge tax in­creases, it’s im­port­ant to re­mem­ber fel­low cit­izens in oth­er neigh­bor­hoods. 

City Coun­cil must look for ways to cap tax in­creases or of­fer a sys­tem of gradu­ated in­creases to those in the hard-hit neigh­bor­hoods. Keep­ing people in their homes and al­low­ing neigh­bor­hoods to thrive will al­low all of us to breathe a little easi­er. ••

You can reach at lswanson@bsmphilly.com.

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