Coalition Seeks Reassessment Data

A coalition of 21 neighborhood groups is seeking a broad array of information on how the citywide reassessment was conducted.

The group, under the banner of Crosstown Coalition of Taxpayers, includes neighborhood associations stretching from Overbrook Farms and East Falls to Kensington and South Philadelphia.

In a letter Monday to the city’s chief assessor, Richie McKeithen, the group asked for information on how the city determined the new assessments that are key to Mayor Nutter’s property tax reform effort, including:

How commercial properties, land and multi-family homes were assessed;

The role comparable sales played in determining values;

How the breakdown of the city into Geographical Mapping Areas, meant to reflect different real estate markets, affected assessments;

An explanation of how “first level reviews” are being conducted for owners questioning their property values.

The group also recently paid $100 for Office of Property Assessment data — information it wants “to complete a full analysis” of the reassessment. Those disks have not yet been provided.

In a statement Wednesday<NO1>3/20<NO>, some members of the neighborhood coalition questioned the reassessment methodology and said not enough information was available about the process.

“There are too many inconsistencies that haven’t been explained and appear to be arbitrary,” said Jeff Carpineta, a realtor and president of East Kensington Neighbors Association.

The Office of Property Assessment (OPA) did release the results of the reassessment for most of the city’s 579,000 parcels on its website on Feb. 15. But Stephen Huntington, the executive director of the Center City Residents Association, said that downloadable data doesn’t have all the necessary fields to evaluate the overall accuracy of the reassessment.

McKeithen has said the industry standard for assessments is to have an average difference of no more than 15 percent compared to sales prices. Looking at the last five years worth of sales, McKeithen said OPA came under that mark at 13.9 percent.

McKeithen also has explained how OPA carved the city into zones and determined base properties for those zones. Other properties then were assessed based on individual characteristics, like age, size, condition and amenities, while accounting for location and other factors.

Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter, also said Wednesday that the administration has been proactive about getting information to the community - scheduling more than a dozen “drop-in” sessions around the city and several teleconference calls to answer questions on the reassessment.

McKeithen also has been attending community meetings to field questions, and he is scheduled to appear before City Council next Tuesday for a budget hearing, giving Council members the chance to ask about the reassessment as well.

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