by Pete Mazzaccaro
This weekend, I was preparing to fill this space with commentary about widespread tax increases across Chestnut Hill, a soaking of the neighborhood’s well-to-do and about how that perception of Chestnut Hill as well-to-do influences so much of how we think of the neighborhood and is the source of many of our assumptions.
But then the numbers were crunched by the city and by the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Chestnut Hill’s median tax bills appear to be going down – not up as expected. According to the Inquirer’s analysis, the median property tax bill in Chestnut Hill will drop $112 or 3 percent, based on a median market value of $337,100.
Back in June, when the Actual Value Initiative was close to passage in City Hall, I wrote in this space that Hillers could expect a tax increase. City Controller Alan Butkovitz and Councilman Bill Green were saying the same thing.
So what happened to the dire warnings?
The most significant change is that the tax rate being discussed as likely is much lower than what was thought possible eight months ago. At that time, tax critics were sure the property tax rate would be set at 1.8. Now the expected rate is 1.25. It’s safe to say those 55 tenths of a percentage did a lot to keep Hill taxes from being slight hikes instead of the small discounts they now appear to be.
So I wouldn’t say that Hillers are out of the tax woods yet. The final rate passed by City Council could climb above 1.25. The other wild card is a number of proposed Homestead Exemptions that would directly reduce the market value on which each property is taxed.
The Hill’s tax future, however, looks a lot better now than it did just a month ago. What was certainly going to be an apocalypse appears to be no more.
We are interested in hearing from you, though. If your tax bill is going up or you think your market assessment is unfair, tell us about it. I’m always reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About that old well-to-do saw
A sharp reader, when I called Chestnut Hill generally “well-to-do,” made the comment that he had no idea he was well-to-do. “No one sent me the memo,” he said.
I laughed and replied: “It’s all relative.”
I know how the generalization works.
I’m from Connecticut, and when you tell someone you’re from Connecticut most people assume you’re from Fairfield County, the wealthy corner of the state. But Bristol, where I grew up, is a far cry from Greenwich. There’s a lot more to Connecticut than the New York suburbs.
So yeah, it’s relative. On the one hand, if you live in Chestnut Hill, you’re well-to-do compared to someone else. Period. But on the other hand, the majority of people who live in Chestnut Hill are not wealthy.
They might live a stone’s throw from the 1 percent, but are not there themselves.
So making a generalization or an assumption about Chestnut Hill’s well-to-do is not only unfair, it’s not all that accurate. It’s as outdated an assumption as that Chestnut Hill is a strong Republican community, which it hasn’t been in at least a generation, if not longer.