Morning Headlines: City Tries to Shut Down Kensington Chocolate Factory

blasius chocolates

Screenshot of Blasius Chocolate Factory via Google Street View

Look at the recent posts on their Facebook page and you’ll find nothing but support for Blasius Chocolate Factory. That’s because city officials showed up on Wednesday to force the business to cease operations, an order the Factory continues to ignore.

Apparently, the Venango Street business owes more than $12,000 in delinquent property taxes — money that owner Phil Kerwick believes he does not owe since the factory is only opened half the year.

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You Can Now Own a Chunk of the City’s Website, Basically

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.

Mayor Nutter Announces LOOP-y Property Tax Relief Program

LOOP brochure cover

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.

Allan Domb: Property Taxes Are Extremely Collectable. So Let’s Get It Done.

allan domb

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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Morning Headlines: Philadelphia Encouraged to Meet Camden’s Standards With New Property Tax System

bill green

Councilman Bill Green was the sponsor of the bill. Photo via phila.gov

City Council approved a bill yesterday that would allow the city to hire private agencies to collect on past-due property taxes. If it seems like the city could be doing a better job of collecting, that’s because, well, it could: After all, Camden and Trenton — both of which sell liens to private collection agencies or investors — collect roughly 10 percent more than Philadelphia does.

As with much Council business, this bill may have been a waste of time (guys! I’m kidding!). Nutter already has the power to sell liens to private agencies, according to the Inquirer’s Troy Graham. He writes, “Councilman Bill Green said he sponsored the bill in part to spur the Nutter administration to consider using this tax collection ‘tool’” — a tool that is already in Nutter’s quiver. So it was just a reminder?

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Morning Headlines: New York Times Covers Philadelphia’s Land Bank Battle

parvin state park

Even in the winter, Parvin State Park is pretty. Via stateparks.com

  • Could the vast number of empty properties plaguing Philly neighborhoods be the push needed to create a land bank? The New York Times reports on Philadelphia’s battle with blight.
  • Like many state parks, New Jersey’s Parvin State Park has a rich history. Sadly, its level of disrepair requires immediate action, according to Edward Colimore.

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Wilson Goode Jr. Gets Radical About Property Taxes

GoodeLG1A 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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Homeowners! Friday the 13th Approaches, and It May Be Your Lucky Day

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project-1Warning: What you are about to see is real.

FRIDAY IS THE FINAL DEADLINE FOR THE HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION APPLICATION.

If you don’t know what we’re talking about, allow us to channel the City of Philadelphia for just a moment (including its awkward capitalizations):

What is the Homestead Exemption?
The Homestead Exemption offers Real Estate Tax savings to all Philadelphia homeowners by reducing the taxable portion of their property assessment by $30,000, starting in Tax Year 2014.

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City Will Host Two Telephone Town Halls to Answer Questions About AVI

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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Good News Alert: Philadelphia Rate of Property Tax Delinquency Is Down

True, the numbers are still execrable: As of April 2013, the city is owed $522 million in delinquent property taxes–which far exceeds the $50 million price tag the School District requires. The notion of reclaiming such delinquencies is depressingly fantastical, but there is good news. As Patrick Kerkstra writes:

For the first time since Mayor Nutter took office in 2008, the rate of growth on the delinquency debt slowed sharply. The city also has made notable gains in reducing the total number of delinquent accounts, from 102,787 in April of last year to 97,310 in April 2013.

We especially like the word “sharply” there. Keep it goin’.

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