Nutter: Pols Shouldn't Stoke Fear On AVI

At a news conference this morning to discuss a series of upcoming public sessions on his property tax reform effort, the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), Mayor Nutter also addressed concerns raised by some elected officials that the recent citywide reassessment was rife with errors.

In particular, Nutter was asked about a letter this week from Controller Alan Butkovitz, a frequent AVI critic, who asked for detailed information on the methodology used to calculate the assessments and their overall accuracy.

Butkovitz said his office had run six different tests on the numbers, five of which showed that values assigned to single family residences were off-the-mark by a wide margin.

Nutter said Chief Assessor Richie McKeithen, “who actually is an expert in this area – I’m not sure the Controller is – will be putting together a comprehensive and detailed response.”

“I think it’s pretty clear, unfortunately, that some of the information the Controller has put out is just inaccurate and wrong,” Nutter said. “I think it’s unfortunate if that’s being done in an effort to basically scare the hell out of people.”

McKeithen also said today that about 6,000 people have filed for a “first level review” – a way to appeal an assessment with the Office of Property Assessment. The deadline to file for that review is March 31. The deadline to file a formal appeal with the Board of Revision of Taxes is Oct. 7.

Butkovitz responded to the mayor’s comments today by noting that the city has been working on the reassessment for more than two years.

“The public has a right to know how this process was created and implemented – that is what I requested,” he said. “The methodology for each property owner's assessment should have been in the envelope with the new assessment.”

Asked about a proposal from Councilman Mark Squilla to phase-in changes in tax bills over four years, Nutter said not enough focus had been placed on property owners who will see a decrease in their bills thanks to AVI.

“There are a bunch of folks who for decades have been paying more than they should. We should be as concerned about remedying that situation as some who might be about the increases,” the mayor said. “The phase-in delays those who rightfully should be getting the lower bill right now.”

The news conference ended on a question from KYW’s Mike Dunn, who asked Nutter if he was concerned about elected officials politicizing AVI and using fears about the reassessment for their own gain.

“I cannot imagine any responsible elected official in this city engaging in that kind of activity regarding something so serious,” Nutter said. “I don’t know any that could be that irresponsible.”

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