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August 28, 2014, 7:04 am

State lawmakers talk city tax reform

Proposed legislation would allow residents to pay in installments

 

In an effort to address residents’ concerns about the city’s implementation of its Actual Value Initiative, state legislators from Philadelphia this week unveiled a package of bills aimed at softening its impact.

State Rep. Cherelle L. Parker, head of the Philadelphia delegation in Harrisburg, provided details Tuesday at a press conference. Several legislators will introduce bills related to the city’s plan to reform its property tax system by moving from its traditional assessed value system where properties are taxed at a fraction of their full value to one based on full market valuation.

City Council is expected to enact AVI later this spring after delaying the move last year.

Some relief measures have already been approved. A homestead exemption was approved last year by the state legislature, giving property owners a $30,000 tax break.

Parker and others are worried that might not be enough.

“We recognize the financial strain the new tax system may place on many city homeowners,” she said. “Homestead relief may not be enough. Therefore, the delegation is proposing common sense legislation in an effort to provide relief to residents as they transition to the new rates under AVI.”

Four bills will be introduced in the new session.

Parker said she will introduce a proposal to give the city additional authority to collect delinquent property taxes by placing liens against all properties owned by a delinquent taxpayer in Philadelphia.

Under the proposal, the city will be authorized to place liens on all properties a delinquent taxpayer owns anywhere in Pennsylvania if property taxes in Philadelphia are unpaid.

“When the property owner attempts to sell any of his/her property located within the Commonwealth, the lien must be satisfied,” she said.

The second proposal, which will be introduced by Rep. Michelle Brownlee, would allow the city to set two property tax rates – one residential and one commercial. State law now mandates that rates be uniform.

“We recognize that there can be unforeseen circumstances when enacting such sweeping reform,” Brownlee said in a statement released by Parker’s office. “Because of this, we thought it prudent to offer this … as a resource, or tool, in the event county officials need to modify assessments as they seek an equitable tax code of our city.”

The third proposal, put forth by Rep. Mike McGeehan, would allow Philadelphia residents to pay their property taxes in installments.

“The times change – and this is our concerted attempt to change with them. We want to place some new tools in the hands of those who desperately need them,” said McGeehan.

The fourth would amend the state code to allow the city to give tax exemptions based on age and income. Current law requires uniform taxes.

“It is proper and necessary for state lawmakers to step in and provide a lifeline to homeowners who can least afford a property tax hike, some of which will be up to 300 percent. It would be a disservice to our public school children and homeowners alike to stand back and do nothing,” said O’Brien.  

Administration officials have been reluctant to discuss the exact impact of AVI except to say that for some taxes would go up and for others they would go down.

Council President Darrell Clarke said the package pleased him.

“These measures are a result of an unprecedented collaborative effort between the City of Philadelphia and its state delegation. This tax relief package will provide the City with the flexibility to implement AVI in a fair and common sense manner,” he said.

Parker also announced that delegation members will hold a public hearing on the property tax relief package from 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 28 at The National Constitution Center’s Kirby Auditorium.

 

To comment, contact staff writer Eric Mayes at 215-893-5742 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .