No new taxes and no tax increases.
That’s a line taxpayers and City Council will likely hear numerous times from Mayor Michael Nutter today as he gives his budget address in Council chambers. Bold it, italicize it, underline it.
And while that is technically true, most homeowners will still end up shelling out more for property taxes for the third straight year as a result of the city’s new property value assessments, the first accepted since 2004. The average assessment is expected to increase 25 percent, although some homeowners will see a decrease, with the difference phased in over the next three years, according to city finance director Rob Dubow.
This comes on the heels of temporary increases in property tax the last two years to help close deficits for the city and the School District of Philadelphia. Those temporary increases will expire June 30.
“Values have gone up. We're capturing that value,” city finance director Rob Dubow said yesterday.
Dubow said the new assessments are akin to someone paying more in wage taxes because they received a raise. He deflected talk of delaying the assessments another year, which was suggested by some on Council.
“There’s going to be a great deal of doubt and distrust," said Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of Committee of Seventy, a government watchdog group. “It’s going to be a big job for both the mayor and City Council to explore this and explain it in a way that real people can understand.”
One reason for some skepticism is that Council must approve the budget with the new assessments before even finding out whether the numbers are accurate. A consulting firm will vet the data after assessments are done by June.
By the numbers
Here’s a closer look at the city’s upcoming revaluation of property values:
To compensate for drastically higher property assessments, the administration said it will propose a reduction to the millage rate to hit a target revenue figure. The millage rate will not be calculated, however, until the assessments are complete.
Low-income seniors can qualify for a property-tax freeze.
The Homestead exemption, which would reduce property-tax bills for residents, must be approved by the Legislature. The Senate voted in favor of it Tuesday, but it still needs House support.