Northeast Times

Surprisingly, underassessments are also an issue

State Rep. Kev­in Boyle said that among the ques­tions and gripes he has heard about prop­erty re­as­sess­ments were com­plaints from res­id­ents who feel the city has  un­der­val­ued their homes.

 His re­marks at the Great­er Bustle­on Civic League meet­ing on Feb. 27 raised a few eye­brows in the audi­ence.

 Boyle, the 172nd dis­trict Demo­crat, said those who were con­cerned about un­der­assess­ments — homes whose val­ues were set lower than the go­ing mar­ket rates in their neigh­bor­hoods — were afraid the fig­ures would af­fect the prices they could get for their homes if they sold them. 

Boyle said he told those res­id­ents not to be con­cerned about that and warned them they might see tax in­creases if they ap­pealed their new as­sess­ments.

The next day, City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.) said not everything should be ap­pealed.

“There are times to com­plain and times not to com­plain,” O’Neill said.

A few days after Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive prop­erty re­as­sess­ments were mailed on Feb. 15, many city and state pub­lic of­fi­cials star­ted hear­ing from their con­stitu­ents. Boyle said his of­fice had fielded 68 calls about AVI as of March 27 .

People are con­fused, con­cerned or con­foun­ded. There’s been a lot of ex­plain­ing to do.

“We have been get­ting nu­mer­ous in­quir­ies in re­gards to the as­sess­ments,” state Rep. Ed Neilson      (D-169th dist.) said in a Feb. 28 e-mail to the North­east Times. “Most in my dis­trict felt that is was a fair as­sess­ment, after a de­tailed ex­plan­a­tion of what the num­ber ac­tu­ally rep­res­ents.”

These new val­ues will be used in fig­ur­ing 2014 city real es­tate taxes. The re­as­sess­ment is just part of the equa­tion. After May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter in­tro­duces a budget this spring, City Coun­cil will fig­ure out a tax rate and wheth­er any kind of tax re­lief will be offered.

City Con­trol­ler Alan Butkovitz and Coun­cil mem­bers re­cently have said they ex­pect North­east Philly to see re­duc­tions or small in­creases. Big tax hikes are ex­pec­ted in South Philly, parts of North Philly and in and around Cen­ter City.

City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) wants to ease the bur­den for people whose taxes are likely to go up by spread­ing tax in­creases over four years. On Feb. 27, he in­tro­duced a bill to ac­com­plish that.

If his meas­ure is passed, res­id­ents who are fa­cing huge tax hikes could sub­tract their 2013 taxes from their pro­jec­ted 2014 taxes and mul­tiply that dif­fer­ence by 25 per­cent. They’d add that sum to their 2013 tax fig­ures to get their 2014 taxes. The per­cent­age mul­ti­pli­er would in­crease to 33 per­cent in 2015 and to 50 per­cent in 2016. In 2017, there would no longer be a tax break.

“It mit­ig­ates a little bit,” the coun­cil­man said in phone in­ter­view on Feb. 28.

There’s a flip side to Squilla’s pro­pos­al that res­id­ents ex­pect­ing tax de­creases might not like. Just as tax in­creases would ease in over four years, tax de­creases wouldn’t come all at once either. 

If Squilla’s bill is passed, a $100 tax dip might be $25 in 2014 and wouldn’t be the full $100 de­crease un­til 2017.

Squilla, who took on vo­lun­teers to an­swer all the AVI ques­tions his of­fice was get­ting, be­lieves re­as­sess­ment will take three to four years to iron out.

“I see it as a pro­cess,” he said. “It’s something that’s go­ing to take sev­er­al years to get right.” ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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