Taxes may be certain, but they need not be unfair.
That was the central premise behind Mayor Michael Nutter’s push for the implementation of the Actual Value Initiative – a property tax system that roots the taxable value of a property to its market value. AVI was intended to correct for years of an antiquated tax system, which failed to apportion the tax burden in the city in a fair manner.
Obviously, this is an admirable objective. But now that the reassessments have been made open to the public for more than a month and critical analysis of the data is being done, the question of equitability has once again come to the forefront.
The extent and targeted recipients of relief measures has become contentious. Besides for the homestead exemption, Nutter has proposed $10 million in relief for small businesses and $20 million for longtime residents in gentrifying neighborhoods.
The latter could have a substantial impact on the Temple community by preventing a potential exodus of longtime residents surrounding Main Campus.
Furthermore, there have been reports of neighbors with properties of equal size land and similar houses being valued tens of thousands of dollars apart. And despite decades of tax records existing prior, improvements upon land have now been deemed more valuable than the land itself.
The city will attempt to remedy some of these complaints through a two-step appeal process which enables concerned homeowners to challenge their assessments if they can offer reasonable proof that their property was misvalued. It’s nice to have some means of open review available, but if the unfairness of the assessments turns out to be as widespread as currently being reported, then it is fair to question if reviewing properties will be an ample solution.
The Temple News encourages city officials to consider as wide an array of options as possible, including postponing implementation for an additional year, and to ensure that veracity is prioritized over mere change.