by Paula M. Riley

The Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) will hold an AVI and Real Estate Tax Discussion Panel from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov.14, at Norwood-Fontbonne Academy.

Designed as an open forum for questions and answers, the community association will bring together City Council representatives, tax reformers and policy developers to help residents learn more about this topic.

“As a civic organization, we are trying to make sure we are doing all we can do to educate community members and, equally important, to offer a forum for residents to discuss this issue with their representatives,” said Brien Tilley, CHCA president and panel moderator.

Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Councilman-At-Large Bill Green, Councilman-At-Large David Oh, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, Brett Mandel, chair of the Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission’s Real Estate Working Group, and Ellen Mattleman Kaplan, vice president and policy director for the Committee of Seventy, have all committed to attending the panel as a service to the Chestnut Hill community.

“This event is not designed to serve as a political platform,” Tilley said. “We want to give our representatives a chance to answer our very real questions about this issue since these tax increases could potentially be very significant to many Chestnut Hill homeowners.”

AVI stands for Actual Value Initiative, the proposed city tax system that would be based on a comprehensive reassessment of property values citywide so that property taxes are assessed at 100 percent of the property’s market rate.

This controversial property tax overhaul was supposed to be voted upon at the June 2012 City Council meeting but the vote was delayed for one year when City Council members did not want to vote without having new assessments completed, claiming they couldn’t set a new millage (tax) rate without them.

The millage (tax) rate is the factor (millage rate multiplied by assessed value) used to determine the taxes owed on a property. This rate has not yet been set, but estimates have ranged from 1 percent up to 1.8 percent. This rate will be set when City Council votes on it next summer.

It is anticipated that the rate will be based on the total value of all property in Philadelphia (from the current property reassessment) and the final budget adopted by City Council. If the proposed 1.8 percent rate were to be approved, Tilley explained, many Chestnut Hill property owners will see very significant impact, especially those that have been undervalued for years.

Tilley hopes that community members use the forum as an opportunity to become educated about the tax proposal.

“If we wait until spring, it will be too late,” he said. “The assessments are happening in January and February, and the vote is in June. We have to use this time to learn all we can about what would be very significant for not only property owners but the overall character of the Chestnut Hill community.”

The forum will take place in the Commons Building at Norwood-Fontbonne Academy. This large gathering space is situated on the Academy’s Fontbonne campus at Sunset and Norwood avenues. NFA has hosted other community meetings there in the past.

“It (hosting) is an opportunity to be an active part of the Chestnut Hill Community, and our facility can provide a forum for quality conversation to happen,” said NFA Head of School Sister Mary Helen Beirne.

For more information on the forum, contact CHCA at 215-284-8810 or www.chestnuthill.org