By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s controversial new property tax assessment system topped the agenda during the second day of budget hearings in City Council chambers.

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Philadelphia’s Chief Assessment Officer, Ritchie McKeithen, was on the hot seat Tuesday. He maintained an even keel as council members brought up what they viewed as big-time errors.

Councilman Curtis Jones says when you drill down on 579,000 parcels of property – assigning a market value on blocks where old rowhomes sit with total rehabs and new construction – there’s plenty to appeal.

“With so many variables and so many differences in properties and neighborhoods, it’s a wild-assed guess,” Jones said.

“No,” McKeithen said. “I would say exactly the opposite of that.”

Councilman Bill Greenlee agreed. “I second that,” he said.

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Council President Darrell Clarke pointed to a constituent’s rowhome near 19th and Brown Streets in the Francisville neighborhood, whose home was assessed last year at $45,000.

“The existing residents’ values are going through the roof,” Clarke said.

She’s now looking at a $455,000 assessment.

McKeithen says the city recognizes the potential for increased assessment appeals, and that’s the very reason that they have a ‘First Level Review,’ which allows a property owner to discuss why they feel the value of the property is not correct. So far, 16,500 First Level Review requests have come in, with more expected by the March 31st deadline.

Property owners who don’t agree with the city’s decision on First Level Review can appeal to the Board of Revision of Taxes.

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