Thursday, July 30, 2015

Moratorium ordered on Phila. property reassesments

Mayor Nutter's pick to run the embattled Board of Revision of Taxes said today that he could not "in good conscience" continue to value properties in Philadelphia using the "bad data" the department relies on.

Moratorium ordered on Phila. property reassesments

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Mayor Nutter’s pick to run the embattled Board of Revision of Taxes said today that he could not “in good conscience” continue to value properties in Philadelphia using the “bad data” the department relies on.

He said there would be an immediate moratorium on all reassessments until each and every parcel of land in the city can be assessed anew.

“It became obvious that we could not continue to do assessments in the way we’ve done them in the past,” said BRT Executive Director Richard Negrin, who has been on the job for just over a month. “I was seeing more than enough to give me pause about continuing business as usual at the BRT.”

Negrin’s conclusions were seconded by Mayor Nutter at a City Hall press conference early this afternoon.

"It is the only fair thing to do," Nutter said.

The moratorium, which will not apply to new buildings and rehab properties, will have the effect of freezing property taxes at their current levels through at least the 2011 tax year, unless City Council takes the unanticipated step of raising property tax rates.

The 18,000 city properties that received reassessment notices in 2009 are not covered by the moratorium. When pressed to explain why it was acceptable to let those property owners cope with new assessments and unacceptable for new assessments to be issued in 2010, Negrin replied, “you’ve got to draw a line somewhere, and I’m drawing a line where I walked in the door.”

Over the next two years — and possibly longer — Negrin said the city’s assessors would clean up the inaccurate data that forms the basis for determining property values.

Negrin said the city was too frequently wrong about essentials such as lot size and how many stories a home might have. On some occasions, he said, the agency was incorrectly incoporating unusual sales — such as a father selling a home to his son for $1 — into their assessment models, which would throw off values for similar homes in the area. In another instance, Negrin said, a home was miscoded into the wrong neighborhood, again skewing values.

Similar errors have been chronicled in Inquirer reports over the past two years that documented widespread flaws in the BRT’s assessment system as well as mismanagement and possibly cronyism at the patronage-laden agency.

Last fall, the Nutter administration assumed day-to-day control of the assessment function of the formerly indepedent BRT through an agreement with the agency’s BRT. This spring, voters will be asked during the primary election to abolish the BRT altogether, replacing the agency permanently with two new entities.

Contact Inquirer staff writer Patrick Kerkstra at 215-854-2827 or pkerkstra@phillynews.com

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The Philadelphia Inquirer's Chris Hepp, Tricia Nadolny, Julia Terruso, and Claudia Vargas take you inside Philadelphia's City Hall.

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