New law will spare city from tax appeal losses through AVI delay

Posted: July 02, 2012

State lawmakers have approved legislation that will allow the city to delay a controversial property tax overhaul for a year without the threat of an onslaught of costly appeals.

City Council leaders had sought the legislative help in Harrisburg after they decided to stall Mayor Nutter's proposal to immediately move the city to a property tax system based on market values, known as the Actual Value Initiative (AVI). Council instead chose to maintain the current system for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Nutter had warned that maintaining the status quo could put the city at risk of up to $100 million in losses from appeals based on a ruling by a state tax board that deemed the city's assessments out of line with reality.

Gov. Corbett was expected to sign the bill sponsored by state Rep. John Taylor, a Northeast Philly Republican, into law Sunday. State Sen. Anthony Williams, who also worked on the legislation, said the law will allow the current assessment and tax system to remain in place for a year without threat of appeals losses.

At issue is the city's current system of fractional assessments. For years properties have supposedly been assessed at 32 percent of market value, meaning that a house worth $100,000 would be assessed at $32,000. But last year the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) ruled that the city's assessments were so flawed that properties were actually being assessed at 18 percent of their value. That meant that property owners could appeal and have the lower percentage applied to their tax bill. After the city appealed, the percentage was changed to 24.8.

The Nutter administration had predicted $50 million in appeals losses for the current fiscal year, due to the STEB ruling. The state legislation will allow the city to use the 32 percent assessment figure for 2012-2013. The legislation also authorizes a relief measure known as a "homestead exemption," which will reduce assessments for homeowners when the city does go to AVI.

Staff writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

Contact Jan Ransom at 215-854-5218 or Ransomj@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Jan_Ransom. Read her blog, "PhillyClout" at www.phillyclout.com.

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