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City Hall Warns Property Owners of Delays in Assessment Reviews

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Letters are going out today to about 25,000 Philadelphia property owners who are challenging their new tax assessments.

The initial reviews of their assessments have been delayed, and a deadline looms to file a formal appeal.

The Nutter administration had hoped to have completed by early October all of the nearly 50,000 initial appeals, dubbed  "first-level reviews."   But spokesman Mark McDonald says they've only completed about half of them.

"The work is complicated," McDonald said today.  "In each case, OPA (the city's Office of Property Assessment) is looking at a property very carefully.  They're taking these administrative reviews very seriously.  And I think more time is being spent on each one, more time than they originally thought when they laid out this process last winter."

The problem is that October 7th is the deadline to file a formal appeal with the Board of Revision of Taxes.

So, the administration is sending a letter to those owners whose first-level reviews are not complete, reminding them of the deadline (see text below).

McDonald says property owners might consider filing for the formal appeal since the outcome of the first-level review is still not known.

"I don't think anyone needs to be deeply concerned about having a fair hearing on their request to have a change in their property assessment," he said, "because ultimately it's the Board of Revision of Taxes that will make whatever changes are required."

And a request for a formal appeal can be withdrawn if the owner is satisfied with the result of the first-level review.

McDonald believes that the OPA will have completed all of the first-level reviews before the BRT starts holding appeal hearings early next year.

"Between now and then, OPA will continue to review first-level reviews and will complete its work with roughly 24, 25-thousand remaining appeals," McDonald said.

The new assessments came as the city shifted to a new system dubbed the "Actual Value Initiative."  A total of 49,963 owners requested first-level reviews, fewer than officials had expected.

Of those, 24,693 are complete.  Roughly 21,000 saw no change in their assessment.  Slightly more than 3,000 saw their assessment lowered, while 61 owners actually saw their assessment raised.

The text of the letter sent by the OPA to property owners says,
Dear Sir/Madam:

The Office of Property Assessment (OPA) received a First Level Review application concerning the above-referenced property. Your First Level Review is still being considered by OPA and may not be decided prior to the deadline to file a more formal appeal with the Board of Revision of Taxes (BRT).

The deadline to file a formal appeal with the BRT is October 7, 2013. This deadline is established by state law and cannot be extended on the basis that a First Level Review application is pending. As you cannot be certain at this time of the outcome of your First Level Review, you may choose to continue with the appeal of your property assessment by filing a formal appeal with the BRT prior to the October 7, 2013 deadline. The filing of a formal appeal with the BRT will not impact the OPA's consideration of the First Level Review application. If, after filing an appeal with the BRT, you receive an outcome from the First Level Review process that you no longer wish to appeal, you may withdraw your appeal to the BRT.

If you have any questions about the filing of a formal appeal, please contact the BRT at or (215) 686 9283 or 686 4343.

The Office of Property Assessment
Citizens Service Unit - 215-686-9200

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