Inquirer Editorial: Everyone Just Chill Out About AVI, Okay?

Today’s editorial in the Inquirer is titled “Most AVI fears are overblown,” and notes that with Nutter’s propsed rate, half of Philadelphia homeowners will see their property taxes decrease or stay the same, while 29 percent would see their taxes increase by less than $400 per year. The number of people who’d see an increase of more than $1,000 per year would be in the minority–less than 8 percent of Philadelphia homeowners. Sounds good, right?

There are a couple of problems with this good news. The first is that among those who are anxious about AVI, there are, says the Inky, “some who are justifiably worried that they will be taxed out of their homes.” That’s because 28.4 percent of our residents live in poverty, and even for a household whose median income is in the $20,000/year or $30,000/year bracket (22 of the city’s zip codes), $100 per month can be tough to come up with.

But Council will work to find relief for those in trouble:

A homestead exemption, which would reduce a home’s assessed value by $15,000 in calculating its tax bill, is available to resident homeowners. For longtime homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods, Mayor Nutter has proposed $20 million in tax relief, plus another $10 million for owners of small commercial buildings with apartments.

More proposals will come to the table.

Another problem is the number of discrepancies and apparent errors:

For example, Nutter’s house was undervalued. Council President Darrell L. Clarke says a Francisville home’s value went up tenfold to $455,000. A two-story home near Graduate Hospital was given a value greater than a larger, newly renovated home.

The city continues to vet the numbers, and errors can be corrected with formal appeals filed by Oct. 7. Meanwhile, City Controller Alan Butkovitz is investigating whether the methodology used to set values was flawed.

That would be a serious problem–in particular because of the way the reassessments have been carried out. Residents would have been much more comfortable with AVI if it had been explained in layman’s terms. Though Nutter may claim the new system is “completely understandable,” he’s been unable to persuade the citizens. The Inky:

The new system is better because it bases tax bills on a property’s actual market value. But the city should do a better job of explaining the process it used to determine property values. Confusing explanations that use terms like “coefficient of dispersion” aren’t the way to do that.

Still, the bottom line is that the old system was broken and needed mending. We agree with the Inquirer’s final word on this: “Nutter should be given time to fix any problems with the AVI assessments and move on with reform.”

Inquirer Editorial: Most AVI fears are overblown