Chris Sawyer over at philadelinquency has performed another of his data dumps (in a good way) this year by releasing three files that you can download and own. Here’s what he’s got:
1. OPA RECORDS.csv – contains all the basic characteristics of each property in Philadelphia, its owners, the OPA mailing address, and summary information from the Department of Revenue
2. REVENUE RECORDS.csv – contains the full entire listing for every OPA account number in the OPA RECORDS file as you see it when you browse the Department of Revenue’s property tax website.
3. VALUATION RECORDS.csv – contains a history of valuation changes for all OPA accounts that are listed in the OPA RECORDS file, including tax exemption codes and historical assessments.
Once the files are downloaded, they’re yours to keep, so you don’t have to go digging around phila.gov to get the info. Which can be exhausting.
Downloads are here.
The city’s new tax relief program, PHL Tax LOOP, is part snappy acronym; LOOP stands for Longtime Owner Occupants Program (oh, to have been a fly on the wall during City Hall acronym idea meetings). Those people who have owned their property since at least 2003 and are up to date on their property taxes are eligible, as long as the property hasn’t ever had a tax abatement.
There are income requirements and specs for what kind of properties qualify for the tax break, but based on the city’s preliminary estimates, 80,000 properties are eligible. Those 80,000 will get info packets in the mail, but if you don’t receive one automatically, that doesn’t mean you aren’t eligible.
Nutter’s statement indicates his acknowledgement of one of the few AVI hiccups: “Our new property tax system is fair and accurate for all Philadelphians – but fairer and more accurate values meant large Real Estate Tax increases for some homeowners.”
Advocates of AVI prior to its implementation claimed that such inequities would ultimately get resolved — precisely with programs of this kind. It should certainly help.
For more information, go to the city’s LOOP site or call 215-686-9200.
Photo of Allan Domb in the lobby of Parc Rittenhouse by Laura Kicey
Property manager/owner/developer Allan Domb, who is also the president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors (GPAR), has become passionate about property tax collection. Last week he attended the City Council meeting during which Bill Green presented legislation that would encourage the mayor to sell tax liens to private companies. Domb, who ideally would like the property tax rate to be 1 percent rather than 1.34, testified at the meeting in support of the bill, which passed 15-2.
Domb told us that when he looked into areas where the city might save money, he kept running into the issue of real estate delinquencies (all municipal delinquencies total $1.6 billion). “Fifteen percent of the population doesn’t pay property taxes,” he said. Even more galling, “40 percent of those delinquent owners are investors who don’t even live in Philadelphia.”
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.)
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