By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Last year’s overhaul of property values in Philadelphia has led to a backlog of appeals this year, and that, in turn, has prompted the city to scrap plans to make reassessments annual.

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At a city council budget hearing, Chief Property Assessor Richie McKeithen said his staff is busy responding to the Board of Revision of Taxes, which has so far only handled about 10-percent of the 23,000 appeals.

Councilman Mark Squilla asked how that would affect the goal of reassessing every property, every year. “Weren’t we told that you’re going to reassess the city every year?”

Richie McKeithen (credit: City of Philadelphia TV)

Richie McKeithen (credit: City of Philadelphia TV)

“That was the goal,” McKeithen said. “But that was prior to us having things occur, such as the situation with the board. All I can do is just address appeals (being heard by the BRT).”

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“OK, so you’re not actively going out and reassessing this year?” Squilla asked.

“No we haven’t done anything reassessment-wise yet for next year,” McKeithen reponded.

And McKeithen said even when a citywide reassessment is held, most property owners will not face the sticker shock that some had last year when the Actual Value Initiative was put in place
“Only the areas that are significantly moving will actually see a lot of increases. Short of that happening, the assessments and the sale prices in a lot of areas will still be pretty much the same. And we won’t have to make any changes in those areas.”

Squilla: “So unless you do a citywide re-assessment, nobody will be changed.”

“That’s right,” McKeithen said. “Unless they have new construction, or a tear-down, or some significant permit work.”

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McKeithen also admitted to being short-staffed in assessors, and said the Civil Service Commission has change the city residence requirement for new assessors. Instead of being required to move in to the city within six months of hire, they will be given a full ten years to move in to the city.
Word of that change prompted surprise and skepticism among some council members, who openly wondered if McKeithen’s office was doing enough to recruit from city colleges. Administration officials hope that the current backlog of appeals before the BRT will be resolved by the end of the next fiscal year, in June of 2015.