City property assessments up $2.2 billion

The value of tax-paying properties in Philadelphia went up $2.2 billion this year, resulting in a tax increase for some owners.

If the city's Office of Property Assessment (OPA) is accurate in its new assessments, which focused on land values, city coffers will receive $14 million in additional tax revenue this year and the School District an additional $17 million.

City officials had already accounted for such increases in the fiscal 2017 budget, which is to take effect July 1 and is in negotiation with City Council.

The OPA reassessed all residential properties last year, focusing particularly on the land portion of a property's assessment. New assessment letters were mailed last month. City tax assessors are wrapping up reevaluating vacant land parcels and will move on to commercial and industrial next.

"We knew land assessments were low," Mike Piper, chief assessment officer, said. "The sole purpose of this was to make values more accurate."

The land value reassessment comes three years after the launch of the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), which was designed to correct decades of inequitable assessment by taxing property based on actual market values.

Piper said that AVI looked at the overall market value of a property and that the land estimates were off in some cases.

In doing its land reassessment, OPA increased the land value of some properties but decreased the "improvement," or building value, resulting in the same overall assessed value as last year.

"If we thought the market value was fine, we left it," Piper said.

Of the 534,535 properties that were reassessed, 85 percent had no change in their total assessment or had a decrease. About 11.5 percent will see a tax increase of under $400 and about 3.5 percent of those reassessed will see a property tax increase of $400 or more.

Piper said he expects that many of the appeals this year will come from homeowners with abated properties on which taxes, in some instances, increased a significant amount.

Abated properties are taxed on the land value but not on the "improvement," the building itself.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz released a monthly economic report Monday that said that nearly 12,000 of the city's 15,000 abated properties will see an increase in their taxes.

"Abated properties will realize an average property tax increase of $661 next year," the controller's report said. "Fishtown and other River Ward neighborhoods in 19125 will realize the largest tax increase of approximately $1,517."

But there is good news for some.

Butkovitz said abated East Falls properties saw the largest decrease in property taxes, dropping more than $2,000 on average.

Including abated and non-abated properties, Center City residents, for example, will see an average increase of $1,013 in their 2017 property tax bill. Yet, University City will see an average decrease of $53.

Property owners have until May 20 to request a "first-level review." A form should have been included with the new reassessment letter. If not, property owners may call 215- 686-9200.

cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520

@InqCVargas