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AVI brings change to city

Michael A. Nutter is mayor of Philadelphia When it comes to reinforcing the notion of Philadelphia as a fair, equitable world-class city, there is simply no time like the present.

Michael A. Nutter

is mayor of Philadelphia

When it comes to reinforcing the notion of Philadelphia as a fair, equitable world-class city, there is simply no time like the present.

As many of you know, on Dec. 19, we reached a key milestone in our efforts to create an accurate, understandable, and professional system to assess all real property in Philadelphia. This new system, the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) sets, for the first time, the total value of all commercial, residential, and industrial property in Philadelphia at a combined taxable value of $96.5 billion.

Establishing this value for all 579,000 parcels took the work of a dedicated core group of professionals who exhibited great care in this effort. They took a broken, unfair, and confusing system, and made it uniform. In fact, Philadelphia was as far as it could be from national best practices on property assessment - we didn't do annual reassessments; we didn't do routine field inspections of all parcels; and we weren't giving people a chance to work out issues without filing a formal appeal.

With the sweeping changes that voters approved in 2010, asking for a new property-assessment system that would stand on fairness, accuracy, and clarity - those bad old days of inequitable assessments and complicated taxing formulas are over.

Under AVI, property owners will benefit from a simple, clear formula. They will receive the market value of their property in mid-February. Then, by simply multiplying that assessment by the tax rate, they will know what their tax bill will be.

At this point, it is simply too early to tell what the 2014 tax rate will be set at, though we know it will be much lower than the current tax rate. Our administration will work with City Council to set a new, much lower tax rate sometime this spring. That rate is what we will use in connection with the new assessments - and anything prior to that is simply speculation. For that reason, we would ask that everyone resist the urge to wildly guess at this point in time.

Some property owners will ultimately experience an increase, as their tax bill will, for the first time, reflect the actual market value of their property. Others will see very little change, and still more property owners will see their taxes lower from the current level to one that is reflective of the true value of their home. But our plan is to collect the same amount of tax revenue under the new AVI system that we will collect during Fiscal Year 2013.

Again, please don't calculate your 2014 property taxes with the current tax rate used on the 2013 tax bills many of you have already received. As a part of the system overhaul, your new property taxes will be calculated using a new tax rate that will be set in late spring 2013.

Now, being transparent does not mean that the process is painless. However, I will work shoulder to shoulder with City Council to put in place relief measures to alleviate some of the impact for those who will see their property taxes go up. We truly are in this together.

We stand on the brink of momentous change and opportunity, to be a city that is fair to its residents - and that is why we must be prudent and patient, evaluating our policies carefully and not wildly speculating or leaping to conclusions.

Thousands of you have already met city assessment professionals when they were in your neighborhood, or spoken with a helpful staffer from the Office of Property Assessment. Through this process, and with your help, Philadelphia will take its rightful place - as a transparent, open, and fair city, surely moving toward a better future.