by Paula M. Riley

The Chestnut Hill Community Association will host its second panel discussion on “AVI and Real Estate Tax” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Norwood-Fontbonne Academy.

“Anyone who owns property in Chestnut Hill or anywhere in the city should come to the panel,” said Brien Tilley, CHCA president.

Tilley will serve as moderator, and panel guests will include Richie McKeithen, chief assessor, Philadelphia Office of Property Assessment (OPA), and Marisa Waxman, deputy administrator for assessment of programs and policy.

The first panel, held in November, featured City Council members and representatives from the Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission’s Real Estate Working Group and the Committee of Seventy. The meeting was designed to educate community members on the planned AVI (Actual Value Initiative) assessment process and provide a forum for residents to discuss the issue with their elected representatives. Approximately 150 individuals attended the forum, many voicing their concerns that Chestnut Hill property owners will shoulder the burden of this initiative.

Panelists explained that property taxes will be calculated based on the property’s AVI multiplied by the millage (tax) rate. The OPA has conducted a citywide reassessment of more than 577,000 residential, commercial and industrial property parcels in Philadelphia to determine their AVI. Individual assessments of all but a few thousand properties will be mailed starting on Feb. 15. The millage rate has not yet been set, but estimates have ranged from 1 percent up to 1.8 percent. City Council will vote on this rate in the spring.

“We got a very clear message from the last meeting that there were many technical questions people want more answers to, so we planned another panel,” Tilley said.

The February panel is designed for residents to get answers to these questions so they understand exactly how real estate taxes changes in will be implemented.

Tilley explained that the meeting will take a “three-pronged” approach, with city officials addressing what AVI is and why it was necessary to move to this new methodology, how the new process is being implemented, initially and over time, and what options are available for residents. OPA representatives will address how they determined the market value of area property, the plan to assess properties in the future and the appeal process.

“OPA – which voters approved the creation of in 2011 – will allow residents, for the first time, a first-level review process if they wish to appeal their assessment,” said Curt Heintzelman, of Starr Group, on behalf of OPA. “By filling out the form, you can be put in contact with the assessment professional who came up with the dollar value of your property, for discussion and review.”

Representatives from OPA will discuss the Homestead Exemption, which allows a reduction in a property’s taxable assessed value and could save residents up to $30,000 off their tax assessment.

Representatives from the Mayor’s Administration and Finance have been invited to explain the process involved in setting the new millage rate. A City Council vote on the matter is planned in late Spring.

“There is a real need to understand exactly how residents will be charged property taxes and how it (AVI) will work in the future,” Tilley said. “If it (tax rate) is beyond a certain factor, then residents may be motivated to be in touch with Council and let their feelings be heard and potentially have an impact of the vote.”

Tilley explained that the community association wants to ensure that residents are informed and clearly understand their options. The panel will be held at Norwood-Fontbonne Academy’s Fontbonne campus at Sunset and Norwood avenues. The event is free and open to the public. For questions call 215-248-8811.