In a five minute session, members of the Board of Revision of Taxes today formally handed over the agency's property assessment duties to the mayor's office, publicly ratifying a pact that had been signed in October.
Speaking for all five members who were at the meeting in the agency's hearing room, BRT Vice-Chairman Harvey M. Levin announced that the board "unanimously ratifies the memorandum of understanding" with the Nutter administration.
The memorandum was approved by the BRT members at Oct. 7 without a public meeting. City attorney's later told the agency that it needed to formalize the deal in an open meeting.
The BRT came under intense criticism this year after the Inquirer detailed decades of mismanagement in the agency.
After Levin's statement, BRT members Alan K. Silberstein and Russell M. Nigro told the audience that they had agreed to all the takeover of assessment functions because the administration had assured them that a fairer tax system would be implement under what is known as the Actual Value Initiative.
Nigro said citizens regularly complain about unfairness in the tax system when they appeal their assessments to the BRT board. He said he wanted the problem fixed as quickly as possible, perhaps next year.
"I don't want to hear any more from taxpayers who say there is not uniformity, equity, fairness," said Nigro, a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice.
But immediately after ratifying the memorandum, the BRT member got an earful of criticism from taxpayers who were appealing their assessments.
Young Hwangho, of the 300 block of Tasker Street, said the assessors were wrong to raise the taxable value on her home from the current $34,200 to $47,900 for 2010 because property prices were falling dramatically in the area.
BRT member Silberstein then asked Hwangho if she would sell her three-story rowhouse for $47,000, noting that she had purchased the property in 2004 for $290,000.
"No," she said, "but none of the houses are valued at that."
Silberstein then acknowledged that she had an argument about the uniformity of the system.
South Philadelphia taxpayer Ray Felice, 86, a World War II veteran, said he was appealing because he couldn't afford a planned increase that would nearly double his property taxes.
Felice said he purchased his home for $6,500 in 1955, and now property taxes are rising because young, affluent buyers have driven up real estate prices.
City Council members have said they will need to adopt protection for long-term residents before the Actual Value Initiative can be implemented.