Northeast Times

Corrected real estate tax bills to be distributed

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. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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