Anyone who is appealing a real estate assessment with the Board of Revision of Taxes should have been keeping an eye on the mail.
The BRT began notifying some taxpayers that they won’t get their hearings before the body unless they confirm in writing that they want those hearings — by July 31.
Carla Pagan, the BRT’s executive director, said the agency began mailing the notices to a few hundred taxpayers on July 1. They were sent to people who got Homestead Exemptions on their properties and were appealing the new assessments they received in spring 2013.
The Homestead Exemption allows owners who live in their homes to shave $30,000 off their assessments for tax purposes. If a house is assessed at $130,000 and the owner has the exemption, the owner will pay city real estate taxes on just $100,000. The savings amount to about $400.
A Northeast Times reader supplied the paper with a copy of the BRT letter he received last week. He said it was dated June 30, but mailed on July 16.
In the letter, taxpayers who are appealing their assessments are asked if they knew their 2014 taxes are going down, and that, in light of that, do they still want to have oral hearings before the BRT. The letter further states that, if the taxpayers don’t confirm they still want their hearings in writing, their cases will be handled administratively by the agency. Taxpayers are told they can appeal any BRT decisions they don’t like in court.
In an email to the paper, Pagan characterized the response as “quiet.”
Anyone who has any concerns should call BRT at 215-686-9283, according to Pagan. “We answer our phones and care about property owners’ needs being met,” she wrote.
The reader who supplied the letter to the paper wasn’t as charitable in his assessment. BRT’s assumption that anyone who doesn’t respond to the letter is willing to give up his or her right to an assessment appeal hearing is a pretty big assumption, he said. Northeast Realtor Chris Artur agreed. “How do they know?” he asked.
The reader, who asked not to be identified, also said he didn’t think the 10 days between the day he got the letter and the BRT’s deadline for a response was enough time to think things over, make a decision, write a response and mail it.
Walt Spencer, who advises the Crosstown Coalition, an association of civic groups in Center City and the river wards on tax issues, last week said he thought the BRT’s letter was “poor public policy.”
Councilman Brian O’Neill (R-10th dist.) last week said that he thought the letter was “kind of interesting” and one way the BRT is trying to handle its backlog of appeals. There are more than 10,000 appeals still to be processed. He said he didn’t think BRT would give anyone trouble about getting a hearing if the deadline were missed.
“I think they’re trying to act in the public’s best interest,” he said, but added, “I think they’ll be generous.”
He said he and his staffers would help anyone who wanted to get a BRT hearing who missed the July 31 deadline. ••
Excerpt from a letter to select taxpayers from the Board of Revision of Taxes:
Do you know that your Homestead Exemption was approved and now your 2014 real estate tax has gone down?
In light of that fact, we would assume you have no interest in appearing at an oral hearing. Instead, we will handle your appeal administratively based on the documents before us and send you a written notice of our decision.