A tax abatement — an exemption from paying taxes on a property for a given number of years — seems like a pretty terrific perk. Who wouldn’t want an abatement? But the notion gets complex in neighborhoods “in transition” — places where property taxes are going up for longtime residents and new construction for new residents comes with an abatement in place.
The abatements also complicate the school funding picture, as they reduce the amount of money that goes to the District.
Should residents still have questions about the changes to their property taxes, the City will try to clarify matters during the course of two Telephone Town Hall meetings hosted by city officials. This is a great opportunity to take the mayor at his word:
“Our Administration has been working diligently to ensure that every citizen understands the changes at hand and participates in the relief measures available to them, especially the Homestead Exemption. These Telephone Town Halls, like the information sessions earlier this year, are critical to creating a dialogue and keeping the public engaged.”
We haven’t spoken about AVI in a while, which seemed to be for the best because the mere mention of the acronym was enough to spur hysteria. For a time, it had people running in the streets, though the mayor said it had to be done because–among other reasons–the district needed the money to save our schools.
So it was done. Like zombies becoming human again, the hysterical people returned to sanity and went inside their reassessed homes and shut it. The schools crumbled anyway because–and I don’t mean to discredit AVI, which I believe in–the School District needs so much more than the reassessments could promise.
The choices, realistically, were current City Controller Alan Butkovitz and challenger Brett Mandel. They had significant differences of opinion about many things, but they both drew especially stark lines in the sand regarding the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), the city’s property reassessment program meant to correct years of preposterously incorrect property values.
Butkovitz was extremely critical of the plan, and recently paid an outside consultant almost $30,000 to assess the assessments. That consultant found that the process was carried out with good intentions but ultimately ineffective. Butkovitz made great hay out of this result prior to the election, which made some in the media suspicious of his motivations. After all, that almost $30,000 was paid for by the taxpayers.
Last week we reported that City Council–having repeatedly asked the mayor and the Office of Property Assessment to detail how it came up with the new property assessments–finally got an answer in the form of a 15-page document (embedded below). Chief tax assessor Richie McKeithen warned Council that it wouldn’t make sense to anyone other than…well, him, maybe. But it seems some Council members read it anyway, including David Oh, who feels it’s incomplete.
“It’s kind of like providing a recipe on making a salad, and generally saying ‘you chop up some vegetables, you mix em together and throw some dressing on it.’” said Oh. “You can’t duplicate that. We need to be able to verify what was done in order to verify it’s within acceptable standards of assessments.”
The City’s chief assessor has announced that the Office of Property Assessment will post a document explaining how the new property assessments were determined–something that’s been asked for not only by citizens but by members of City Council. McKeithen, of whom we’re rather fond, has seemed a bit irritated by the request, as though we should all take it on faith that the city–which has bungled (or simply not done) the assessments since before the first Franklin impersonator donned his spectacles–would get it absolutely right on the first try.
(We will give McKeithen a pass for his irritability around AVI because he’s not from Philadelphia, and has been appalled since he arrived here to see how messed up everything is. This, from a man who was chief assessor in D.C.)
This is where all the AVI action goes down: the Curtis Center. Photo: Bruce Andersen via Wikimedia
Let’s start with the bad news about Philadelphia’s never-ending property assessment saga: Richie McKeithen, the city’s chief assessor, says that out of the approximately 31,000 appeals the city’s received, “a huge number” will not result in reduced assessments for those who filed.
Now the good news: Only 31,000–according to McKeithen–filed, which means the other 548,000 city property owners did not ask to have their new assessments reviewed.
As always, we must remind you that there are no solid numbers yet, we don’t know the tax rate, nothing is resolved, and this is all speculation. But what pretty speculation! This whole “data journalism” thing sure is delightful. See the Axis Philly map after the jump.
Did you receive a property assessment in the mail in mid-February? Did you look at it and think, “That’s ridiculous–this house isn’t worth $XXX,XXX” and then went on with your life and completely forgot about it? That’s okay. Don’t freak out. Well, maybe freak out a little because you only have until March 31st to [...]