Tax assessors are back walking the city streets this month, finalizing field inspections to set the “actual value” of each property in the city. And just in time Metropolis helps shake the sand out of our brain with a two-part refresher on the city’s Actual Value Initiative – aka AVI.
In Part One, Tom Ferrick explains the impetus behind revising the city’s broken property tax system, how our city’s assessments became so imbalanced, and suggests three questions we should be asking: Is each assessment true to market value? Will the city keep AVI revenue-neutral? What is the tax rate? He concludes: It is likely that most homeowners in the city will be paying a higher real estate taxes, some of them significantly higher. How many homeowners is hard to say. In 2002, the last time a city assessment was done, out of the 500,000-plus residential properties in the city, 300,000 had their taxes changed: 28,000 had them lowered; the rest saw increases ranging from slight to severe.That reassessment resulted in 15,000 appeals — a huge number, but one that is likely to be dwarfed by the number of appeals next year. For Part Two of this backgrounder PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey digs into the mechanics of how the “actual values” are being set and what exactly those assessors are doing when they’re out pounding the pavement. Part of the assessment is straight research – how many bedrooms, square footage, housing age, recent nearby sales – and in the end it’s ultimately an “educated guess” by the Office of Property Assessment. In neighborhoods where market values have increased dramatically over the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about how to preserve affordability for longtime residents, but as Brey writes, that’s not up to the assessors. “The assessor can’t have a heart, honestly,” said [OPA Director] Richie McKeithen. “That’s why, oftentimes, in a lot of localities, we’re not even under the people who set a budget. We’re assigned to just deal with the real property: what is it worth? what will it sell for? Period.” OPA’s new assessments will be mailed out in February.