What Is the City's Method For Reassessing Property?

Ever wonder how exactly the Philadelphia Office of Property Assessment ("OPA") values properties in the City for tax purposes? What the exact methodology is? 

Well, by law, the OPA is supposed to publish that information. Philadelphia Code Chapter 2, Section 305(2)(d)(i), (e), requires the OPA to publish annual assessment-sales ratio studies and "an explanation of the extent to which the methodology employed conforms to nationally recognized assessment standards such as those approved by the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) for mass appraisals of real property."

The bill establishing this ordinance, passed in June 2013, and signed into law by Mayor Nutter on September 6, 2013, attached an example for the OPA to follow in creating such an annual report. That example is the Government of the District of Columbia's "Appraiser's Reference Materials," which can be viewed by downloading the first .pdf attachment to the bill, here, on City Council's website. DC's Appraiser's Reference Materials is 125 pages long, single-spaced, and contains numerous charts, formulas, and neighborhood-by-neighborhood assessment breakdowns. 

Today, however, the only data available on the OPA website is this powerpoint from 2013 that contains just 15 slides and does not purport to cover commercial property valuation methodology. There is no neighborhood-specific data and nothing about the OPA's methodology for any tax year after 2013. In fact, the Philadelphia Controller's annual audit on Philadelphia City Agencies, dated October 23, 2017, notes (on page 108) that the OPA's "precepts," which "provide direction to property assessors and are designed to ensure uniform practices and procedures in the assessment of values to real estate parcels" have not been updated since 1992. Just today, City Council announced that it is seeking to audit the OPA, because some Councilmembers believe the OPA's methodology "may be flawed." However, that won't affect taxpayers' most recent reassessments.

So...while I'd like to explain how the City reassessed property for tax purposes this year, I guess we'll all just have to keep on wondering.


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