Philly controller questions tax assessments; finance director points to improvement

Finance Director Rob Dubow maintained the property tax assessment issue is not as big as City Council or the controller have said it is. (WHYY file)

Finance Director Rob Dubow maintained the property tax assessment issue is not as big as City Council or the controller have said it is. (WHYY file)

In a new report, Philadelphia’s controller has criticized how property tax assessments are calculated in the city.

City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, who said the Office of Property Assessment lacks transparency, also criticizes the office’s accuracy. Her team has found inexpensive homes in low-income neighborhoods that are being overtaxed.

“In North Philly, Southwest Philly and West Philadelphia, the assessments are too high and when that is applied to the tax rate, it’s putting an unfair tax burden on the poorest residents in the city,” Rhynhart said Thursday.

Finance Director Rob Dubow disagreed with her evaluation.

“When we look at our ratio study, which is what they looked at by district, we don’t see the same kind of variation that they do, so we don’t see the same kind of issue,” he said. “We understand there are areas that we need to improve, and we are working on them.”

Rhynhart also said the formula for coming up with the assessment has not been made public.

“Philadelphia’s Office of Property Assessment puts a few lines of text up on their website and doesn’t detail any of their formulas, so it’s really opaque and confusing to people,” she said, adding it “needs to be fixed.”

Dubow maintained the issue is not as big as City Council or the controller have said it is.

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