City Council is scrambling to mitigate the impact of the Actual Value Initiative, a citywide reassessment of property values that will dramatically shift tax bills for many property owners — including the council members themselves. Assuming that Mayor Nutter’s proposal of a 1.32-percent tax rate with a $15,000 homestead exemption passes, Council could serve as a microcosm for AVI’s effect on the entire city: Seven council members would see steep tax hikes, seven would walk away with noticeable savings, and two would see little change. As for Bill Green, Council’s lone renter, he’s already been informed his rent will go up.
Marian Tasco and Cindy Bass (who both live in the Northwest) would each save $1,400, as would Torresdale resident Bobby Henon. Henon’s bill would decline by roughly 50 percent, the largest relative decrease on Council. But the real winner may be Mark Squilla, with the lowest tax bill of any council member: $633. That’s because Squilla’s house was rehabbed under the city’s 10-year tax-abatement program; under AVI that break will increase to $172,583 of his home’s value. Squilla says this is a perfect argument for his proposal to phase in AVI’s impact over four years. “The argument against phase-in is that people have been overpaying and should get that break right now, but if you look at cases like my house, you know that is not always the case,” he notes.
María Quiñones-Sánchez, who could see her taxes double on her Norris Square rowhouse, says there is an issue of fairness at stake. She was sanguine about the sharp increase in property values, saying they were a sign of neighborhood revitalization. Still, Quiñones-Sánchez has been a supporter of AVI with targeted gentrification relief. “I believe that with means-based gentrification relief we’re going to be able to help those folks with low and fixed incomes, while allowing them to capture the real value of their assets,” Quiñones-Sánchez says.
For extended coverage and to see how your council member could be affected by AVI, read our follow-up story on the Naked City blog.