The Philadelphia Research Initiative - part of The Pew Charitable Trusts - released a report this morning assessing the city's efforts to reform and reinvent its property tax system.
City Council is expected this spring to take up the mayor's Actual Value Initiative, which would move the city to system that taxes properties based on their actual market value.
As part of the effort, assessors are attempting to affix a market value on nearly 580,000 parcels. The actual tax rate applied to homes and commercial properties figures to be the subject of considerable debate - and political angst - after the results of that citywide reassessment are known in the next few months.
The Pew report did not attempt to project a future tax rate or predict AVI's affect on specific neighborhoods. Instead, the report sought to illuminate the challenges in moving to an actual value system, based on the city's history and by examining experiences in other cities, including Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago and other large metropolitan areas.
The report found that Pennsylvania is one of just nine states that does not make local governments conduct property reassessments on a given timetable or impose standards for those reassessments.
The report also discusses the state's uniformity clause, which requires all types of property to be taxed at the same rate, and examines how that restriction has limited efforts to reform the system.
Pew also found that any reform would be meaningless unless assessments are kept accurate and up to date.
Philadelphia also has some unique characteristics, compared to other cities. The report found that Philadelphia has a relatively low reliance on property tax and low tax bills, which might have contributed to a sense of inertia about fixing a system widely recognized as broken.
The city also has low property valuations and a high rate of home ownership.
The full report can be found here.
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