West Mt. Airy residents should know by mid-September their new property tax assessments

During the West Mt. Airy Neighbors (WMAN) annual meeting, city officials told residents that although the Actual Value Initiative hasn’t passed yet, residents should apply for exemptions now and expect to know their payment by mid September.

WMAN executive director Marilyn Cohen said she felt the need to bring in city officials—director of finance Rob Dubow and deputy administrator of the Office of Property Assessment Michael Piper—to help explain to residents just how the process is going to work.

And with the clock ticking on AVI’s June 30 deadline, Cohen said one of the main concerns of residents was what kind of notice they’d get before their taxes changed. The concern being that many residents, herself included, believe many Mt. Airy homeowner’s taxes will be going up.

“I think realistically we have very valuable homes in many parts of West Mt. Airy,” she said. “And we also have some gentrified neighborhoods where people have lived there for generations who are concerned bout their values going up incorrectly.”

Officials didn’t say whether they think many of Mt. Airy’s residences will see a tax increase, but they did say outdoor features of any home—such as yard size, levels of the house and upkeep—will affect how high the house is valued at.

Although officials couldn’t give residents an idea as to what their taxes would look like, Cohen said she felt the city was able to satisfy residents.

“People wanted to know what was going to be the process for the reassessment, when they were going to be notified relative to when their taxes were due and if there was going to be an appeal process,” she said. “I think the city answered all of that for us tonight.”

The most important of answers, she said, was how to ensure the reassessments were taxes were fair.

“We want a system that’s fair, accurate and understandable,” Dubow said. “That’s why we’re moving ahead with this program.”

Dubow said the new system will be more fair and accurate. The answer to doing so is to install safety devices and exemptions—none of which are guaranteed to pass. Dubow, however, said he expects a combination of the proposed to be put in place.

First is the Homestead exemption, which can reduce the taxable portion of a property by $15,000 or more. But the applications have to be in by July 31.

“Whether or not this is pending legislation, we just want to make the point when you get these in the mail,” said Piper. “Whether or not it passes, we just want to make sure you get them in by July 31.”

Dubow said brochures with applications will be mailed to every Philadelphian and he encourages residents to apply now.

Piper added that, since any given house will only be assessed from the outside, that residents can always make an appeal, where they will have to prove their claims of an improperly assessed value.

There also may be a gentrification relief measure to help those who’ve resided in their home more than 10 years and have seen a large increase in their property value over the past few years.

Lastly, Dubow said there will be help offered to certain groups—like elderly—to help make payments manageable.

Although residents were satisfied with the answers, they’re still nervous about what lies ahead.

One of those residents is Thomas Devlin, whose owned his West Mt. Airy home for three years.

“The main concern is, like everyone else, money’s tight and if the tax rate goes up a lot just being able to make that extra payment,” he said. “I’m just worried about how it’s going to impact me and my family.”

Devlin said he expects his taxes to increase.

“Based on what they said how most of their data in the computers is out of date, it sounds like most properties will get an increase,” he said.

But until neighbors know for sure, Cohen said she encourages West Mt. Airy residents to get the facts, and said WMAN will continue to help in that process.

“I’m sure everybody’s a little anxious until that assessment comes in the mail, but it is our civic responsibility,” Cohen said.

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