My Tax Bill

I've written in this space before about property taxes, and was going
to chime in on the Inky's article last week about how notices were
about to go out announcing upcoming tax bill hikes, but just never got
around to it. Well, my notice arrived in the mail today, and it
proposes a 7.5 percent increase in my property value, after no
increases since at least 2000, when we bought the house and started
paying property taxes. So that translates to a 7.5% increase in my
property tax bill, due next February.

In fact, our property value has probably increased by 300 percent
since 2000. So, relative to others, I'm still under-paying. Not that
I'm complaining, of course, from a selfish standpoint. But, and I
won't get too comfy on my soapbox since I've made this point time and
again in this space, I do hope Philly'll really reform its property
tax assessment process, so that I'll pay even more in property taxes.

Yes, you heard that right - and you may know I'm a die-hard fiscal
conservative, too. But the way property taxes are calculated now is
very, very, very unfair to the poorest of neighborhoods. Hot
neighborhoods appreciate in value in the marketplace, allowing owners
to benefit from that run-up, whether by selling the property or
borrowing against it. But all the while, their property taxes do not
rise accordingly. Cold neighborhoods enjoy no such marketplace
benefits, and are stuck paying a property tax bill that, compared to
those of us in hot neighborhoods, is a higher proportion relative to
what is fair.

Of course, more frequent reassessments would right this wrong. But
there are enough people in hot neighborhoods in mine, whose property
tax bill would double or triple or more, who are rallying against it.
And there are enough people in poor neighborhoods who have been
misinformed that more frequent reassessments would mean higher bills
(when in fact it would almost certainly mean lower bills), and they
are joining in the anti-reform movement. So it's uncertain whether
there will be any property tax reform, and that would be a real shame
and a real injustice.

(While I'm here, let's go ahead and address the problem faced by poor
people in hot neighborhoods, the classic example being poorer elderly
folk living on fixed incomes in "gentrifying" neighborhoods. Of
course, Philly already has relief programs in place for elderly who
meet certain income requirements, and such programs could be expanded
or tweaked as the case may be. Furthermore, AARP is sold on reverse
mortgages as a way for the elderly to balance the increase in their
property tax bill with the accompanying run-up in their property


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