The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.
This is one man's story.
When I received my new property assessment as part of the city's AVI initiative, I could not help feeling like the perfect fool for having behaved responsibly when I was getting married and buying my home in a nice, but struggling, Germantown neighborhood five short years ago.
I had done all the right things — or so I thought. I had all of my credit scores up around 800. I lived well within the means of a dad and social worker for a fatherhood program at a nonprofit serving Philadelphia. (We help men to be responsible fathers and become actively involved in the lives of their children.) Not once had I ever paid a bill late, or paid my mortgage late, or my property taxes late (I paid what I was told I owed), and I made damned sure that I could afford my home on my salary alone should my marriage not last. (It didn't.)
When I purchased my home, a very important consideration for me was that the property taxes were low, and I was able to negotiate a fair purchase price for my home given the neighborhood it is in. Things looked good.
Then, my son graduated high school and received a scholarship to La Salle University. Over five years, I refinanced my home (twice) to lower my interest rate, and thereby my mortgage payment so that I could help my son get through college. I meticulously managed my finances, maintained my home and extended that care to my surrounding neighborhood, picking up trash off the street, looking out for my neighbors' properties, etc. When my community wanted a stop sign on our street, I led the fight against City Hall, and we got our stop sign.
And now, a bunch of people I don't know have decided that I cannot have all of this, undoing my five years of careful planning. They have decided that my home is to be made almost unaffordable to me, that I must now pay for some inexplicable errors in judgment about property taxation that the city government made long ago. These people who want to rob me have exotic names like Nutter-City Councilman-City Councilwoman-City Attorney-Judge this-or-that.
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These unsavory people, representing the city of Philadelphia, Pa., have decreed that my property taxes will likely go up something like a staggering 336 percent. (And I know there are some who have it even worse. I hope they are writing their own letters.) The increase I am looking at is the highest in my immediate neighborhood, and it is outrageous, simply outrageous.
All of us, who are good citizens, were aware that we might have to pay more (albeit, only so that business property owners can pay less — sheesh!). As always we were resigned to do our bit, even though it deeply rankles us that the city has allowed so many property owners to skip paying their taxes to the tune of a reported half a billion dollars. So they come after the easy targets — the good citizens. We are all suckers anyway — right?
It bothers me that people I don't know can use the law and their positions to screw up my law-abiding and responsible existence. It is not right. It is not fair.
I've written to my city councilperson about this issue, but only received the "standard response."
As I see it, what would help is some sort of cap on the amount of allowable property tax increases, and even decreases; something on the order of 100 to 150 percent.
At some point, all the good guys — the decent law-abiding and responsible homeowners, who help to keep things going in this city — deserve a break.
My fellow Philadelphians, I think now is the time and this is the issue. Let's take a stand, write letters, call in, do something so that all these unfeeling politicians with their exotic titles hear us.
They think we're all suckers. Well, are we?