Mid-March snowflakes didn’t stop Chestnut Hill residents from waiting outside the Chestnut Hill branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia on Saturday morning. The library was the site of one in a series of city meetings to explain the new property assessments that will go into effect as part of the city’s Actual Value Initiative.
The meeting was slated to start at 10 a.m., but city officials were allowing residents to sign in and begin the one-on-one counseling sessions before that.
Deputy Managing Director John Farrell was coordinating the meeting on behalf of the city, and about 15 representatives from various city departments were on hand as informational counselors available to answer residents’ questions.
On hand at Saturday’s meeting was Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass who spoke with concerned residents. “I drop in and try to be helpful and talk to the constituents as well,” said Bass.
Farrell noted they were able to help and answer questions for about 100 residents in the first hour of the session, an improvement over initial meetings on the topic.
However, many residents were not so thrilled with the information they learned. Residents who have received their property assessments only saw numbers going up, which raised concerns about costs and taxes.
Chestnut Hill resident, Mary Lunney, has lived in her home her entire life – 75 years. She was born and raised at the property and went on to inherit the house from her parents. She noted she has gone through property reviews and adjustments before, but doesn’t remember the outcome.
This time around is different though, Lunney is concerned with the degree of adjustment, adding that her adjustment nearly doubles the value of her property.
“People are getting the information, we’re answering questions and people have questions and concerns,” said Bass.
“They see their assessment as one number, and they see the number has doubled. Does that mean my taxes are doubling, my taxes are tripling? And in most cases that is not the case.”
One exemption that residents were counseled on was the homestead exemption, which would excuse residents from paying tax on a portion of their assessed property value. Residents must apply for the exemption and will need review.
“People want to get information and people want answers, so let’s have that dialogue” said Bass.
More one-on-one meetings are scheduled through the end of the month, when the first appeals deadline is set, on March 31st.
For residents unable to attend the district meetings in person to ask questions about their property assessment concerns, there is a “Telephone Town Hall” hotline scheduled for March 27th, from 6:55 p.m. to 7:55 p.m. Residents can call 215-686-9200 during that time.