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 firstname.lastname@example.org