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Reassessment Plan Prompts Council Concerns

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Mayor Nutter’s plan to reassess every single property in Philadelphia came under the microscope during a City Council hearing, with lawmakers voicing concern that longtime residents may face ‘sticker shock’ at year’s end.

In the hot seat during the hearing was Ritchie McKeithen, director of the Office of Property Assessment, which is in the midst of a reassessment of every single building in the city. Several council members openly wondered how accurate the new assessments will be.

READ: CBS Philly’s Complete Coverage Of Mayor Nutter’s Property Tax Reassessment Plan

McKeithen said, very much, “We have statistical measures, after we’re done with our reassessment, to demonstrate the quality of it. We’re using industry standards and industry techniques that other assessment offices around the country use.”

Another concern voiced by lawmakers was whether longtime residents — including those who may have inherited homes — will be hurt by the change, particularly in gentrified neighborhoods.

“It’s those neighborhoods that are primarily blue collar that are experiencing this uptick in property value because of the desirability of living in the city. Those people are going to be the sticker shock folks,” says Councilman-at-large Jim Kenney.

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown told McKeithen that he needs to get the word out. “Go to every single senior citizen center in the city and tell the story of what’s about to happen, and how and if it may — or may not — impact their world.”

McKeithen, though, didn’t mince words about that potential impact: virtually all properties will see higher values since there hasn’t been a citywide assessment in years.  “Even the most basic house will now sell for a price that is much higher than what it used to sell for.”

The mayor’s Finance Director, Rob Dubow, testified that the Administration plans to phase-in any property tax increases over three years, and is also hoping for state approval of homestead exemptions to ease the hit.

Getting that word out, Dubow said, is in the plans. “We’re looking at bringing in outside firms to help us communicate the message, so people know what’s available to them (in terms of assistance) and what this actually might or might not mean to them.”

Councilmember Cindy Bass was astounded to learn the assessors go out to look at homes with only pen and paper.

“It’s a little bit troubling and scary that we’re undertaking such a huge process and we don’t send folks out with iPads or PDA’s or anything!  They’ve got a notepad!”

The mayor’s plan to move to the new assessment system, dubbed the “Actual Value Initiative,” has also come under fire because of Nutter’s insistence that it would be used to bring in an extra $90-million for the cash-starved School District.  Critics call that aspect a “back-door tax increase” and insist the move to AVI be done in a manner that is revenue-neutral.

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More from Mike Dunn
  • MikeInPhilly

    I believe that every homeowner should pay the same real estate value no matter if you live in North Philly or Chestnut Hill.

  • ms

    They should double everyone’s property taxes so they can a build a ski lift and a NASCAR track downtown to go along with that 50 million dollar ice skating rink????

    Or how about they cut city council’s budget in half? Jim Kenney is spending 28K of tax dollars for a twitter account is that not wasteful? What else are the blowing money on? Make city council part-time like 95% of this country. This city government is a JOKE!!!

  • PhillyRN

    There is no way to give a break to someone who inherited a house for free and require those who are paying a mortgage to pay more to make up for those who inherited a house.

    Does that sound fair to anyone? If you inherited a house, you should be in a BETTER position to pay the property tax increase than someone with a mortgage!

  • PhillyRN

    Francis, I’m having trouble following you. We should be grateful that the business has not LEFT that the suburban residents are DRIVING TO in the city.

    They provide a valuable source of income, that frankly is not going to last as business and jobs continues to become more and more mobile.

  • Francis Graff

    Let me get this straight. People who live outside the City, get a City Wage Tax break. They don’t come under our property tax increases, and they are the one’s who clog our highways everyday. The Dad Vail is coming, and we can’t even use our beautiful river drives, those rowers don’t bring squat in money terms to the town, but get their way everytime. Who do you think we are councilpeople and Mayor? You better start leaving the homeowner’s alone, or they will march on City Hall. “Leave a sleeping giant sleep, for when he awakens the City will tremble”. Oh! and who woke up the guy in the State Tax Equalization Board. The home of retired politicians. Now there is a real joke.

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