Philadelphia begins sending out new real estate assessments

Posted: February 17, 2013

The city began mailing new real estate assessments Friday to more than half a million Philadelphia property owners, based on a massive two-year revaluation effort that is supposed to place an accurate market value on every lot and building.

Mayor Nutter said the new values would replace "a broken system that unfairly undervalued or over-assessed property values in Philadelphia for decades."

The new assessments do not affect city real estate bills mailed in December and now falling due. But they will be the basis of the bills sent out next December, payable in early 2014.

Most real estate owners should receive their new valuations by mail in the next week, but for those who do not want to wait, the city posted new market values for about 560,000 city parcels on the website of the city's Office of Property Assessment, www.phila.gov/opa.

The city also provided a Web-based tax calculator at avicalculator.phila.gov.

About 20,000 properties are still being reviewed, and it may take two more weeks before owners are notified of their reassessments, officials said.

The new assessments are subject to individual appeals by property owners who believe their properties are worth less than the city says.

The assessments released Friday hold few surprises, with trendy neighborhoods including Fairmount, University City, Southwest Center City, and South Philadelphia east of Broad Street bearing the greatest brunt of tax increases.

The big winners were neighborhoods subject to less change in recent years - Chestnut Hill, West Oak Lane, Eastwick, Wynnefield, and much of the Northeast.

Richie McKeithen, who was hired in 2010 to oversee the initiative as the Office of Property Assessment's director, said the agency had beefed up its staff to handle telephone calls from citizens, at 215-686-9200, weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Property owners will be able to file paperwork seeking a more formal "First Level Review" by the office if they make the request by March 31. If they remain unhappy with the result, they can appeal to the Board of Revision of Taxes, and from there, to the Court of Common Pleas.

But Nutter suggested that most taxpayers should be able to handle the changes. The administration's preliminary analysis indicates that the property tax rate will have to be between 1.20 percent and 1.25 percent of market value to raise the same amount of tax revenue in 2014 expected under existing valuations in 2013.

The overall tax rate may have to climb somewhat, the mayor said, depending on what relief measures are adopted by the administration and City Council to ease the impact on different classes of homeowners and neighborhoods.

While the revaluations are likely to lead to sharp tax increases in "hot" neighborhoods where property values have soared in recent years, about 40 percent of the city's property owners would see their taxes stay the same or decrease if the tax rates are set at 1.25 percent of market value. About 71 percent would see their tax bills climb or fall by less than $400, the mayor said.

Preempting critics of the new valuations, the mayor said he was likely to save $460 in taxes on his own house in Wynnefield, assuming a 1.25 percent rate and no relief measures.

He said the Nutter family intended to send a $460 check to a Philadelphia School District program for accelerated students.

A broader analysis of current and projected tax bills for 76 top officials in the Nutter administration showed 25 percent facing tax increases of more than $1,000; 38 percent lined up for decreases, and 37 percent facing changes, up or down, of less than $400.

McKeithen said his staff had relied on comparable sales in 640 "geographic market areas" to develop its estimated market values for residential properties.

For harder-to-evaluate commercial properties, the city asked building owners for revenue and expense data and recent appraisals, when available.


Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.

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