EDITORIAL: AN ASSESSMENT
Feb 25, 2013 (Philadelphia Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
MANY OF the city's homeowners thought they got a letter bomb last week when they opened their new property assessments from the city.
Despite -- or because of -- the fact that the city has spent at least 10 years talking about fixing the broken tax system without actually doing it, many people tuned out the developments and so were in for a shock when they opened their assessments.
A more-sophisticated and aggressive communications strategy might have reduced the panic and confusion that many homeowners reported last week. (The Office of Property Assessment's Information Line, 215-686-9200, got nearly 14,000 calls in the first three days of last week. That's a lot of questions.)
Overall, we'd give the city a mixed score on how it has unrolled AVI: On one hand, it gets kudos for publishing a huge database of all-new property assessments in the city -- a brave move that at the very least will make data and statistics geeks happy. The city also released a nifty app (avicalculator.phila.gov) that lets property owners look up their new assessments . . . and their neighbors' assessments.
On the other hand, neither app or database was mentioned in the material mailed with the assessments. They did come with a glossy brochure and a flyer about how tax money is spent. More useful would have been the words "Don't Panic" and an annotated example explaining what each element means . . . an annotation that is linked on the homepage of phila.gov. (Note to city: Don't forget about the digitial divide.)
Because the new tax rate hasn't been established, no one knows how to interpret the new number that signifies the value of their property, but the mailing could have provided a clue of what the likely range will be.
Those who have accessed these tools may naturally be turning to the Board of Revision of Taxes site to download an appeal form. Too bad they can't, as we reported last week.
The new property-tax system is one of the biggest changes the city has orchestrated, ever. The city should have spent more money and time on communicating what it all means.
IT WAS HARD to know how to react Friday to the news that PHA had settled Carl Greene's lawsuit against it by paying him $625,000: pull our hair out, then vomit . . . or vice versa
We're not even sure the hair we pulled out when Greene filed the original lawsuit in 2010 has fully grown back. His original suit claimed that his civil rights had been violated, he was defamed, and the PHA board did not grant him due process when they fired him. The judge threw out all but a claim of breach of contract. Trial began Jan. 29. It was over Friday.
But it's not over: PHA already racked up $1 million in legal fees on this case alone. That's on top of the $625,000 payment. All of this is taxpayer money.And in case you've forgotten, so was spending under Greene that included: Tumi luggage. Glitzy parties. Expensive "training." Hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret harassment settlements.
Who can we taxpayers sue to get some of this back
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