By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Starting Friday, Philadelphia homeowners can apply for a homestead exemption — even though the program has not yet even been approved by the state legislature.

A homestead exemption is part of the mayor’s effort to reduce the hit that residential owners are likely to face when the city switches to a new assessment system, dubbed the Actual Value Initiative.

City Council has yet to approve the change to AVI, and the state legislature has yet to approve the homestead exemption.  But that isn’t stopping the Nutter Administration from accepting applications beginning today.  Finance Department Chief of Staff Anna Wallace Adams says the form is on the city’s website.

“The website will contain information about the Homestead, how you need to apply, details about the Homestead, and the application form itself,” said Adams. ” So you can go in, fill it out, and mail it in the Office of Property Assessment.”

Adams says they’re taking applications now because of a tight timetable.

“We know that amendment in the state legislature asks for 60 days for the application time,” she said. ” With the timing that we need to process the applications, we need to begin the application time by June 1st to allow for a July 31st deadline.”

In addition to the website application, the Administration plans to mail out copies of the application and a brochure explaining the program later this month.

The homestead will reduce a portion of taxable assessment by an amount still to be decided, but likely to be at least 15-thousand dollars.  Only owner-occupied properties would be eligible.

Meantime, City Council will resume its debate over the budget next week.

“Next week I believe all the action on the legislation before us — 14 bills – will start to crystallize into a single budget proposal, and we will be in a position to pass a budget,” said Council President Darrell Clarke. “What components will be in that particular budget, I can’t say at this point in time, because its still a moving issue.”

The state legislature returns to Harrisburg next week, but it remains unclear when those lawmakers will act on the Homestead bill and a separate bill that allows Council to adjust the property tax rate.

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