Pennsport: Neighbors React to Actual Value Initiative

Lisa's family were not greatly affected by the AVI, but she was aware of others in the neighborhood whose property taxes doubled.

With the reassessment of property values due to the Actual Value Initiative, some lifelong residents are seeing their property taxes go up. Several assessments have tripled the property value, and some residents are worried they may have to leave their homes.

The Actual Value Initiative (AVI) is a program which is supposed to accurately assess each property in the city for the value it is actually worth. It will assess all properties in Philadelphia—residential and commercial—for their current market value. AVI will be in effect for the tax year 2014.

AVI is supposed to individually assess each property “fairly and in compliance with state laws, statutes, and industry standards,” according to the Office of Property Assessment. However, not everyone agrees.

Since August, many residents have been filing the multiple exemptions and abatements to obtain discounts and reductions on their taxes. Those who believed their property assessments were incorrect have been filing appeals to the city to get their assessments reevaluated.

Residents who maintained their home's exterior have seen their property taxes skyrocket.
Residents who maintain their home’s exterior have seen their property taxes skyrocket.

Elderly residents have been receiving assistance in filing the proper paperwork from neighborhood organizations like the Whitman Council, and have also been contacting Councilman Mark Squilla for advice.

But despite the many who are shocked by the skyrocketing taxes, there are many residents who are unaware of what AVI is and that their upcoming January tax bill may be considerably higher than their last.

Margaret Schlemback, of Moyamensing Street, said she had no idea property taxes on certain homes were being raised considerably. Schlemback lived in her home for 42 years and was unaware many homes close by were being doubled and tripled.

“We’ve seen an increase last year, but it wasn’t drastic,” said Schlemback. “I’m just hoping it doesn’t go up anymore this year.”

Lisa Grivnovics lived on Mifflin street since she was married, and grew up right around the corner. She notes her taxes haven’t gone up too much but she is aware that many others are having problems.

Lisa Grivnovics's family were not greatly affected by the AVI, but she was aware of others in the neighborhood whose property taxes doubled.
Grivnovic’s family were not greatly affected by the AVI, but she was aware of others in the neighborhood whose property taxes doubled.

“We’ve been lucky all these years that they haven’t gotten too high,” Grivnovics said. “But I know a lot of people are appealing their taxes because they went up so high. Many are asking for the Homestead where they take off $30,000.”

But just a few blocks away on Morris Street and across from Dickinson Square Park, Eileen Gargano’s home was one of those drastically affected.

Gargano is a resident who is extremely active in the community. She is the treasurer of the Friends of Dickinson Square, a School District Volunteer and is always out cleaning and maintaining the park and her block. But now she wonders what will have to be done for her to keep her home.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years and my taxes doubled here,” Gargano said. “I own an apartment around the corner and they tripled.”

The new assessments challenge her and her husband’s retirement plans.

“My husband’s retired,” Gargano said. “I guess I have to get another job or sell my house.”

Many residents, however, were unaware exactly how the properties are assessed and how the prices are being determined.

“I think every house should be assessed the same way across the board,” said Lisa Grivnovics.

Although the reactions are mixed and some residents may not be directly affected by the implementing of the Actual Value Initiative, most residents agree that the assessments and the dramatic hikes are not the proper way to go about reevaluating the value of the homes.

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