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. ••