Philly's tax appeal board meets more, gets ready for 2018 rush

The Board of Revision of Taxes is back from vacation and busier than usual.

The board, which has been criticized for only holding hearings twice a week, is meeting four times a week through at least the end of the year to decide pending appeals and brace for an expected onslaught of new ones.

“We’re trying to get a jump on 2018 because we expect we are going to get hit,” said board chairman and retired Common Pleas Court Judge Eugene E.J. Maier following Monday’s hearings.

Maier said that the board’s executive director, Carla Pagan, is projecting a big increase in appeals because the assessed value of commercial property jumped 50 percent. So far, the board has received 1,145 appeals of fiscal year 2018 valuations, and has made decisions on 124 of those.

The deadline for 2018 appeals is Monday, Oct. 2.

The board, an independent group appointed by the city’s judges, is charged with reviewing and deciding the value of a property when an owner appeals the assessment — a task that pays each member at least $70,000 a year for what amounts to part-time work.

Board members, however, were not there for most of the summer. The entire seven-member board took off between July 13 and Aug. 24, while there was a backlog of more than 1,800 appeals for property assessments.

The board has been holding appeal hearings four times a week since Sept. 11.

The 2017 backlog went slightly down to 1,569 as of Sept. 13, the most recently available data the board provided to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, which oversees city finances. There have been six hearings since then.

Monday’s appeals were mostly residential, with people arguing over what they believed were inaccurate assessments of their homes and, in one case, a common water basin. Most were told they would be notified by mail of the board’s decision. Only one got an immediate decision by city officials, who agreed that the parcel of land he was appealing should be assessed at zero because it is a common area for a planned unit development.

Thirty appeals were scheduled for Monday but only 10 people showed up for their cases.  The hearings, which are public, started at 10:15 a.m. and were done by noon. Board members decide on most cases following the hearings, Pagan said.

The 2018 appeals will likely involve fighting over large chunks of potential money for the city. The 2018 assessments of major commercial, industrial and hotel buildings resulted in $118 million in new tax revenue, Those notifications went out in April.

For those who might have misplaced or not received a new assessment notification, property assessment data can be found on the city’s Office of Property Assessment website, property.phila.gov.

Instructions on filing an appeal can be found at http://www.phila.gov/brt/appeals.