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Councilman Mark Squilla Proposes An AVI Phase-In

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - A Philadelphia city councilman wants to put the brakes on the city's controversial property tax overhaul. An AVI phase-in was  introduced today.

First District Councilman Mark Squilla believes the new assessments are rife with errors, so he wants to phase in the use of those assessments gradually over four years, rather than embracing them 100% for tax bills due next year:

"This will give OPA (the Office of Property Assessment) a chance to go back out, whether it's high under-assessments, high-over assessments, it gives OPA the following year to go in and change their assessment; the resident would not have to pay for the error that was made by somebody else."

OPA officials acknowledge some of the numbers may be off, but they say simply asking for an immediate review is the best way for property owners to get them corrected. Squilla, though, introduced legislation to phase-in the use of the values at Thursday's council meeting.

This might be unwelcome news to property owners who are over-assessed in the old system, since a phase-in would essentially delay the decreases they may now be expecting. Squilla's plan will become part of the entire debate among the mayor and council members over a new tax rate and homestead exemption.

Also in response to AVI, 7th District Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez introduced a bill on Thursday that would give small business owners who face large property assessment hikes a $2,000 break on a separate tax called the Use and Occupancy tax.

Tenth District Councilman Brian O'Neil introduced a measure that he says would increase the participation of seniors in the homestead exemption, one of the buffering mechanisms that Council and the mayor are considering offering to residential owners.

And both Squilla and 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson made speeches on the floor of Council chambers decrying what they say are widespread mistakes in the assessments.

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