A Bustleton resident is one of those city taxpayers who, on one hand, won, and on the other, lost.
Sharon Styles is hoping to win again, and chances are she might.
Styles appealed her Dungan Road property’s new assessment last year, and was told the city agreed the number was too high. It was lowered about $14,000, she said. But then, she and others in the same situation got their 2014 real estate tax bills — bills that are higher than they should be because they’re based on pre-review property assessments.
This problem was reported in the Northeast Times in January. Mark McDonald, Mayor Michael Nutter’s spokesman, then said the city was aware of the incorrect bills and said that corrected ones would be sent out at the end of January.
“As-sess-ments and re-vi-sions will con-tin-ue for a peri-od of time, and the De-part-ment of Rev-en-ue will con-tin-ue to send out re-vised bills,” he wrote in an email to the Northeast Times. Bills were mailed in Decem-ber based on as-sess-ments that were re-por-ted by Novem-ber, Mc-Don-ald con-tin-ued. “Those who have an ad-just-ment from the Of-fice of Prop-erty As-sess-ment or are un-der ap-peal with the Board of Re-vi-sion of Taxes will re-ceive a re-vised bill in Janu-ary,” he stated.
But for the Dungan Road resident, the end of January came and went, and no corrected tax bill landed in her mailbox. Since the reduced assessment would cut her tax bill by almost 200 bucks and tax bills are due the end of March, the woman started calling city agencies to ask what she should do.
A further impetus to searching for answers is another date: Feb. 28. That’s the last day to take advantage of a 1 percent discount on the tax bill. As she tried to get a definitive answer, Styles said, on two occasions, she was told to just pay the incorrect bill.
“That’s not right,” Revenue Commissioner Clarena Tolson said Feb. 10. The commissioner said corrected bills will be going out, and, for hundreds of people who are in situations similar to Styles’, the discount deadline will be extended to March 31.
The property value review Styles got from the Office of Property Assessment was something new in 2013, the year the first citywide reassessment in decades was completed. Ordinarily, anyone who doesn’t like a value assigned by the city appeals to the Board of Revision of Taxes. But in 2013, OPA instituted what it called “a first-level review” opportunity for residents who thought they were overassessed. Reviews were sought for about 50,000 properties. By November, the OPA had shot down about 39,000 of those review requests and had granted about 6,000. Styles is among that last number.
Realtor Chris Artur on Feb. 7 said he got incorrect bills for 12 of his properties, but so far has received only three corrected bills. He said he paid them all and will put in for refunds. He said the form to request a refund is not difficult. You have to know what you’re doing and be patient, he said.
In December, McDonald said anyone who overpays will receive refunds
City Councilman Brian O’Neill has a different view: Don’t give the city a dime more than you have to.
“You don’t want to try to get money from the city,” he said. “It’s not quick or pleasant.”
City Councilman Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) said he has heard similar complaints from residents and also is aware that people are not getting consistent answers to their questions.
“There’s some confusion,” he said. “But, it’s a very complicated and confusing operation this year.”
Tolson said many, but not all, property owners who are appealing their new assessments to the BRT should have gotten corrected bills in which they are told to pay figures based on their homes’ 2013 assessments.
About 4,500 owners who are appealing their new assessments got 2014 tax bills that are lower than the bills they got in 2013, Tolson said. Her office is not sending them corrected bills. In those cases, she said, it was a matter of leaving well enough alone.
Tolson, the former Streets Department commissioner, took over Revenue last spring. She said software is being updated to deal with multiple changes in assessments, and she added staff training is ongoing in her department. ••