Philadelphia's Office of Property Assessment gets drubbing in City Council committee

Pat Loeb
February 03, 2019 - 4:00 am
Philadelphia Property Values

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- The office that sets property values for tax purposes in Philadelphia took it on the chin at a City Council committee hearing. 

The Office of Property Assessment may be the most hated part of Philadelphia government because it determines real estate tax bills. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson says it's one of the things he gets the most complaints about.

"Constituents are calling my office asking for explanations and also some level of reprieve," Johnson said.

Johnson called last week's hearing to get at least the explanations for a spike in assessments last year and unevenness is the way similar properties are valued. Officials detailed the complex technical formulas, but that did little to address underlying concerns about rising property values driving out long-time residents. Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez suggested the office needs to look at more than numbers.

"I have a senior who bought a house at $12,000, hasn't made improvements," Sanchez said, "and I'm saying if we value that person and we're saying to them we want you to stay there, it should be reflected in the formula."

The officials promised improvements to the appraisal system but said her concerns were a matter of policy rather than assessments. The committee did approve a bill that would require the office to reduce assessments if they're artificially inflated by being close to tax-abated properties.