1900 Market St Street | 8th Floor | Philadelphia, PA 19103 | 215.546.6719 | email: centercity@centercityresidents.org   Travis Oliver, Operations Manager

Neighborhood Contacts

Elected Officials for the CCRA Area

Local officials

State Officials

Federal Officials

Agencies Operating in the CCRA Area

Other Links

Who to call when...

Abandoned/dangerous bldg?

Call Philly311 at 311

Auto repair in public street?

Call Philly311 at 311

Belligerent homeless person?

Call Police at 911

Broken alley light?

Call Philly311 at 311

Broken street light?

Call Philly311 at 311

Broken traffic light?

Call Philly311 at 311

Car and building alarms?

Call Philly311 at 311

Damaged bus shelter?

Call CBS Outdoor Advertising at 215-671-8411

Dead animal in empty bldg?

Call Philly311 at 311

Dead animal in your house?

Call Philly311 at 311

Flooded intersection?

Call Water Department at 215-685-6300

Foul odor?

Call Health Department (Air Management) 215-823-7583

Gas leak?

Call PGW Emergency Line at 215-235-1212

General block cleanup?

Call Philly311 at 311


Call Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network at 215-685-9556

Hazardous sidewalk?

Call Streets Department (Maintenance) at 215-686-5560

Illegal dumping?

Call Philly311 at 311

Leaflets on doors & cars?

Call Philly311 at 311

Loud noises?

Call Health Department (Air Management) at 215-823-7583

Missing manhole cover?

Water/Sewer at 215-685-6300
Gas at 215-235-2050
Electric at 215-841-4141

Nuisances at housing project?

Call Philadelphia Housing Authority at 215-684-4500

Open fire hydrant?

Call Water Department at 215-685-6300

Overflowing dumpster?

Call Philly311 at 311


Call Streets Department (Maintenance) at 215-686-5560


Call Health Department Vector Control at 215-685-9719

Snow and ice on roads?

Call Streets Department (Maintenance) at 215-686-5560

Suspected arson activity?

Call Fire Marshal at 215-686-1362

Trash-strewn lot?

Call Philly311 at 311

Tree limbs on electric wires?

Call PECO Emergency Services at 215-841-4141

Unshoveled sidewalks?

Call Philly311 at 311

Business Member Directory


Rittenhouse Philly - AirBnb

223 S. Bonsall St Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Barbara Halpern, halpernlaw@gmail.com

Apartment Living

Dorchester on Rittenhouse Square

226 W. Rittenhouse Sq
Philadelphia, PA 19103


Toll Brothers, Inc.

600 S. 24th St
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Contact: Brian Emmons, bemmons@tollbrothersinc.com
What is it like, from start to finish, to buy a Toll Brothers home? It's truly a unique experience. We've built first-rate customer service into every aspect of the buying process: shopping and design decisions, financing, the construction phase, and post-settlement.

Arts & Culture

Twenty-Two Gallery

236 S. 22nd St.
Phila., PA 19103
Office: 215-772-1515
Gallery: 215-772-1911
Contact: Shawn Murray
Since 2003, an intimate original fine art gallery nestled in Philadelphia's premier neighborhood, Rittenhouse Square, representing 22 emerging and established local artists in a variety of artistic mediums. Included is the 50 years of historical, sports & Americana photographic artwork by Bruce Murray, Sr. (1893-1969). The gallery is available for rental for intimate events, music, pop-ups and more.


Irish Pub

2007 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Raven Lounge/Pendelum

1718 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Jonathan Hunter, Owner

Community Outreach

Community Associations Institute

Community Associations Institute
PA and Delaware Valley Chapter
601 S. Henderson Road, Suite 151
King of Prussia, PA 19406
Phone: 610-783-1315
Fax: 610-783-1318
Toll-Free: 877-608-9777
The Community Associations Institute is dedicated to fostering vibrant, responsive, competent community associations that promote harmony, community and responsible leadership.

Penn's Village

Neighbors Helping Neighbors Thrive, Connect and Engage
201 S. 21st Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
215-925-7333 or info@pennsvillage.org
Penns' Village is committed to helping residents of central Philadelphia neighborhoods lead vibrant, healthy lives while they remain in their own homes. Volunteers and members enjoy the benefits of mutual support through educational and social programs as well as access to resources and basic services that allow them to continue to enjoy the activities of city life as they age.

Project Home

1929 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact, Joan McConnon, joanmcconnon@projecthome.org
Project HOME is a Philadelphia non-profit organization empowering individuals to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through affordable housing, employment, health care, and education.

Society Hill Civic Association

241 S. 6th St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
The Society Hill Civic Association (SHCA) is a pro-active volunteer organization that strives to enhance the quality of life in Society Hill.

Trinity Center for Urban Life

2212 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Computer & Technology


Ladder 15 Restaurant

1528 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Good Karma Café

331 S. 22ND ST.(@ PINE ST.)
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Mon-Sun: 6AM - 9PM

The Fitler Square location is the original Good Karma Café and opened in March of 2008. It’s a cozy little space with a nice quiet back patio as well as some sidewalk seating in front of the café. 5% discount off your purchase. Discount available only at this location.

Suga Restaurant

1720 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103


Bright Horizons Center City

1601 Market Street - Lower Level
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Lisa Cianfrani, centercity@brighthorizons.com
Bright Horizons at Center City provides exceptional child care and early education for infants through pre-kindergarten, and for school-age children during school holidays and summer break. The Bright Horizons innovative curriculum, The World at Their Fingertips® provides intentional guidance and rich experiences that move children along their early education journey by building upon individual strengths and talents.

Formative Years Learning Center

1925 Lombard St
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Contact: Anne Seelaus, ann.formativeyears@gmail.com

Friends Select School

The Center City Quaker School that Sparks Fascination
17th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Annemiek Young, Director of Admission and Enrollment Management, 215-561-5900, x102
Friends Select School is a coed, college preparatory, Quaker day school serving 560 students. Flanked by City Hall on one end of the Parkway and Philadelphia Museum of Art on the other, Friends Select students PK -12 benefit from sophisticated learning experiences through curricular partnerships with Parkway museums and other city institutions and resources.

Greene Towne Montessori School

2121 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Greene Towne Montessori School, located in Center City, Philadelphia, is dedicated to providing a stimulating learning environment for children ages 18 months to 6 years, consistent with the values and principles developed by Dr. Maria Montessori.

Society Hill Dance Academy

2nd & Pine St
Philadelphia, PA 19103


Dance Affiliates

Dance Affiliates presents NextMove at the Prince
1412 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19102
Contact: Randy Swartz, Artistic director, 215-636-9000 ext. 105
Founded in 1979 by artistic director and center city resident Randy Swartz, Dance Affiliates is one of the nation’s few remaining dance-only presenters. Dance Affiliates is known internationally for its award-winning annual Dance Celebration program co-presented with Annenberg Center which was Philadelphia’s longest-running series of world-class contemporary dance for the past 32-years. In 2015, Dance Affiliates presents its inaugural NextMove Season at the Prince Theater featuring eight world class companies in 54 performances. Visit www.danceaffiliates.org

Faith & Religion

The Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square

Office: 1904 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Carol Ruddick, Communications Coordinator, 215-567-1267
An Episcopal Church - a vibrant, diverse, and welcoming community of faith, located right on Rittenhouse. We offer Weekday and Sunday Services, free Wednesday concerts at 12:30 PM. The Church is also available for weddings and special events. Our Parish House, located at 1904 Walnut Street, is newly refurbished and open to the community for meetings and small gatherings.

First Baptist Church of Philadelphia

123 S. 17th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Rev. Peter Wool, fbcphila@aol.com

First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia

201 S. 21st St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Trinity Memorial Church
2212 Spruce Street
Philadephia, PA 19103

Financial & Banking

Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

1515 Market Street
Suite 714
Phila, PA. 19102
215 802 2509
Harvey C. Sacks, JD, Financial Advisor
Expertise: Comprehensive financial planning as well as investment management, including college, retirement, estate planning. tax, retirement income, and women's financial strategies.

Firstrust Bank

1515 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Scott Cirella, Vice President, 215-563-0900

Health & Fitness

Row Zone Indoor Rowing & Fitness Studio

2006 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Yoga and Thrive

2016 Walnut St, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Hally Bayer, info@yandpphilly.com
At Philly Power Yoga & Thrive Pilates we provide a welcoming, inspiring atmosphere, expert instruction & customized personal support to empower you to create optimal health & fitness.

Home Care

Home Helpers

1835 S. Broad Street
Suite 2
Phila, PA 19148
Contact: Patrica Grace, 267.402.771

Home Helpers offers one-stop professional discreet in-home personal care with an exceptional commitment to customer service.

Home Design

Teknika Design Group: Kitchen Remodeling

226 Race Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Home Maintenance

Joseph Giannone Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning

1641 Delmar Dr
Folcroft, PA 19032
Contact: jgiannoneplumbing@gmail.com,
Serving all of the Greater Philadelphia Region for more than 85 years, we know what it means to be dedicated to our customers—and our craft. When you need an expert you can count on, the Joseph Giannone Plumbing & Heating team is just around the corner. Our fleet of experienced service professionals is fully certified and operates in accordance with local building codes and industry standards.

Solar States

1508 N. American Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
Contact: Micah Gold-Markel
"Our vision is to have universal impact on people, the planet, and profit. For people we want to educate more students in the states we work out of, by establishing solar classes in the surrounding schools. By getting more people to go solar, we see this energy source as a way to revitalize the planet from past harsh alternatives. We have doubled in size since 2014, and project that to happen again in the next couple of years as our mission unfolds."


Badey, Sloan & DiGenova P.C.

2200 Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
George J. Badey, III
The attorneys and the support staff of Badey, Sloan & DiGenova have decades of legal experience, including the courtroom proficiency and savvy that can only be obtained from trying cases in the courtroom. See a sampling of the types of cases we have handled in the "Success Stories" section of this site or in the attorneys' individual biographies. You will see that we possess the tools to obtain the results that you seek. Whether your case will require a jury trial and litigation on appeal, a mediation presentation, or an administrative proceeding, our attorneys and staff have the necessary skills and experience.

Center City Notary & Apostille Company

100 S. Broad St
Suite 1415
Philadelphia, PA 19103
A 24/7/365 Notary Company located right on the Avenue of the Arts and we are a mobile notary company. They do everything from a simple notary to a Deed Package and Mortgage Closing.


Craig Lichtman, MD, MBA

2031 Locust St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215 567-7336
Dr. Lichtman's specialties include Psychiatry. Other services include:
  • Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and PsychiatricConsultation
  • Family Business Consulting
  • Divorce Coaching and Mediation

East West Acupuncture: Dr. Carol Goldman

419 S. 19th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Always wanted to try acupuncture? Have an ache or nagging pain that won't go away? Feeling a bit stressed? Go decompress. East West Acupuncture, located at 419 S. 19th St, will offer a 15% discount to our members. You must show your membership card.

Penn Medicine

399 S. 34th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Pennsylvania Hospital
800 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Meeting Space

Pyramid Club

1735 Market St, 52nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Maureen Coyle
Pyramid Club is a private business club strategically placed 52 floors high at the "top of the town," above Center City. The club specializes in outstanding cuisine, personalized service superb meeting and dining facilities, and state-of-the-art technology.

Music Instruction

Debbie Poryes, Jazz Pianist and Teacher


I’ve just moved to Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood last summer from the San Francisco Bay Area and am looking both for local students to welcome into my teaching practice and for work playing at events large and small. I can play a piano that is on site or bring my own digital piano. I’m happy to play solo piano or bring a bass player. We can add drums and/or sax or guitar if you like.

I teach jazz improvisation to adults including bebop, post bop and modern tunes (i.e. Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Horace Silver, etc.) the American Popular Songbook (standards from Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Hoagy Carmichael, etc.). I love to teach kids, too – I give them a thorough classical education with reading and exposure to the classical repertoire as well as incorporating jazz and improvisation when they’re ready. I’ve prepared teens for auditions into college jazz departments, and two of these were accepted a couple of years ago into well regarded jazz programs in Oregon and Los Angeles. I’m also available for internet lessons, no matter where you live.

In all cases, with all people young and old, beginners to advanced to professional musicians, we have some serious fun! I consider inspiring my students to be part of my job. Please see my website to hear my music, read reviews and bio. I’m in the process of updating to a mobile friendly design, so at the moment it’s still best to view it on a desktop computer.


Liberty Pet Vets

265 S. 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: (888) 458-8587 (phone & fax)
Liberty Vet Pets is a multi service animal hospital and welcomes pet patients in need of medical, surgical, and dental care. Dr. Bonnie Valiente has many years of experience treating conditions and offering pet wellness care. Beyond first rate pet care, we make our clinic comfortable, kid-friendly, and calm, so your pet can relax and look forward to meeting our Philadelphia veterinarian.

Real Estate

Abbolone & Scullin Realty, LLC

415 S. 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Contact: Mark Gamba, info@as-realty.com

Bernadette McClelland, Real Estate & Paralegal

The Condo Shop
1425 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 284-5251
Expertise in all real estate, including Luxury Condo Sales and Extensive Rental Listings. Buyers & Sellers. Diligence to Every Detail of Your Home!

Mary on the Square Realtors

210 W. Rittenhouse Sq
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Mary Genovese Colvin, mary@maryonthesquare.com
Mary on the Square is a residential sales team representing buyers, sellers, renters, landlords, and developers. Selling “River to River” in Center City Philadelphia, our full time boutique residential sales team understands the complexities of urban living and the luxury real estate market. We leverage our personal connections, decades of experience, cutting-edge technologies, and intensive market knowledge in pursuit of unparalleled client-focused service.

Renaissance Properties

1324 Locust St , Mezzanine Level
Contact: Henry Friedman, henry@renaissancepropertiesgroup.com

Tori Properties

266 S. 23rd St, 16A
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Gloria Tori


Boyds Philadelphia

1818 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

David Michie Violins

1714 Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Di Bruno Bros, Rittenhouse Sq.

1730 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Our flagship location in Philadelphia's historic Rittenhouse Square is filled with local and international culinary delights. This full-fledged European style marketplace houses our largest cheese cave, meat & seafood, coffee bar, upstairs café and gourmet grocery.


1300 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
We’re pleased to join CCRA as a Business Champion Member. Macy’s is committed to Making Life Shine Brighter through service to our customers, our communities, and our colleagues.
Contact:  Mindy Solkin, Personal Shopper, Fashion Stylist & Corporate Sales - 215-496-9209

Metropolitan Bakery

262 S. 19th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Reading Terminal Market

12th & Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19107
One of America’s largest and oldest public markets, housed since 1892 in a National Historic Landmark building, the Market offers an incredible selection of farm-fresh produce, meats and poultry, plus the finest seafood, cheeses, baked goods, confections, flowers, kitchen basics, cookbooks, jewelry, and crafts. Be sure to sample our tempting variety of dining choices including local specialties and international delights.

Rittenhouse Market

1733 Spruce St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Small mainstay offering groceries, gourmet foods, produce, seafood, a deli & delivery service.

Ursula Hobson Fine Art Framing

1528 Waverly Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Contact: Ursula Hobson
"For the love of art let me frame it"


Jason Matthew Salon

1735 Chestnut Street, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, Pa 19103

Jason Matthew Salon is a multi-award winning center city salon located in the heart of Rittenhouse Square. They specialize in all hair services including cutting edge hair cuts, innovative color including hair painting, balayge, and corrective color, straightening services, extensions and more. They are home to two of the best estheticians in the city who specialize in brow sculpting, waxing, make-up and skin care services.

Jason Matthew Salon will offer 10% off to our members who have their membership cards.

Merchant Discounts for CCRA Members

List of Merchant Member Discount Participants and their Discount Programs

Astral Artists

Discount Program: $10 discount on any performance. Please promo code “CCRA”.

Di Bruno Bros

1730 Chestnut Street
Discount Program: For those who were paid up CCRA members as of February 28, 2018 10% off all purchases at 1730 Chestnut St. Must use current “CCRA Friends of Di Bruno Bros.” card obtainable for eligible CCRA members at check-out register.
Hours: Mon-Fri 9am - 8:30pm; Sat 9am - 8pm; Sun 9am - 7pm.

Dom’s Shoe Repair

All leather tasks including orthopedics and handbags, 203 South 20th Street
215-972-0098, domshoe@hotmail.com
Merchant Contact: Leandro (Lee) Montalto Discount Program: 10% to CCRA members but may not be combined with other sales or discount programs.
Hours Mon – Fri 7:30am - 5:30 pm, Sat 9am - 5pm.

East West Acupuncture: Dr. Carol Goldman

419 S. 19th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
15% discount to our members. You must show your membership card.

EyeCandyVision, Optometrists and Opticians

218 South 20th Street
EyeCandyVision.com Merchant Contact: Tim Sagges
Discount Program: 20% to CCRA members but may not be combined with other sales, discounts or insurance programs.
Hours – Closed Monday. Tues – Fri 10:30 am - 6:30 pm, Sat 10:30 am - 4pm.

Good Karma Café

331 S. 22ND ST.(@ PINE ST.)
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Mon-Sun: 6AM - 9PM

5% discount off your purchase. Discount available only at this location.

Home Helpers

1835 S. Broad Street, Suite 2
Philadelphia, PA 19148
Office: 267-402-7271
Fax: 215-334-2601
We offer members a 10% discount on our hourly rate.
Proudly Caring for Clients in Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey

Jason Matthew Salon

1735 Chestnut Street, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, Pa 19103
Jason Matthew Salon offers 10% off to our members who have their membership cards.

Koresh Dance Company

2002 Rittenhouse Square Street
A world class dance facility and dance company with studios and instruction available to the public. www.koreshdance.org
Merchant Contact: Haley Bradstreet
Discount Program: First adult class is free!
Call or go online for class hours.

Liberty Pet Vets

265 S. 20th St, 888 458 8587
Committed to educating their clients on how to keep your pets healthy year round, with good nutrition and exercise. libertyvetpets.com
Merchant Contact: Robert T. Wright
Discount Program: 10% off of services and boutique items (excluding food)
Call for business hours.

Nature's Gallery Florist, Inc.

2124 Walnut St 215 563 5554
Offers fresh and imported flowers, elegant orchid and succulent plants. Fringe and Gianna Rose Gift Candles and Soap beautifully boxed for your gifting. Fruit and gourmet baskets made to order.
Merchant Contact: Gabriella Nemati, Event Planning Manager
Discount Program: 10% to CCRA members
Call for business hours.


1909 Chestnut Street
267 322 6651
A photo lab for film and digital pictures with products for everyone and bike messenger delivery from the Delaware to Penn’s campus & from Washington to Girard.
Merchant Contact: Ravid Butz
Discount Program: 15% off for CCRA members but may not be combined with other sales or discount programs.
Hours: Mon – Fri 9:30 am – 6:30 pm; Sat and Sun 11:00 am to 4 pm

Rim’s Dry Cleaners & Tailors

2203 South Street
Merchant Contact: Jake Kang
Discount Program: 10% to CCRA members for first time customers but may not be combined with other sales or discount programs
Hours – Mon – Sat 7am – 6pm.

Raven Lounge/Pendulum

1718 Sansom Street
(215) 840-3577
Merchant Contact: Jonathan Hunter
Discount Program: Receive 20% of your bill with CCRA membership card.

Rittenhouse Hardware

20th and Pine (2001 Pine)
215-735- 6311
Merchant Contact: Ken
Discount Program: 5% to CCRA members but may not be combined with other sales or discount programs
Hours- Mon – Fri 8am to 7 pm, Sat 9am to 6pm, Sun 10am - 3pm.

Rittenhouse Pet Supply

135 South 20th Street
Merchant Contact: Wendy Schnaars
Discount Program: 10% of all non food items but may not be combined with other sales or discount programs.
Hours- Mon – Fri 10am - 7 pm, Sat 10am - 6pm, Sun 11am - 6pm.


Chinese and French fusion dining
1720 Sansom Street
Merchant Contact: Suzanna Foo, Gabriel Foo, or Ng Tommy
When guests make reservation please mention you're a CCRA Member. Ask to speak with one of the merchants listed to authorize discount.
Discount Program: 10% discount for orders in house or delivered to CCRA members but not available on specials such as two course lunch express, or happy hour specials.
Hours – Mon-Thurs 11am - 10pm; Fri & Sat 11am – midnight; Sum 11am – 9pm. Happy hour: Mon – Fri 5pm – 7 pm. Sat & Sun 10 pm to midnight.
Brunch: Sat & Sun 11am to 3 pm

Twenty-Two Gallery

236 S. 22nd St.
Merchant Contact: Shawn Murray
Discount Program: 15% to CCRA members on all artwork
Hours: Wed - Sun 12 noon to 6PM or by appointment. Opening shows every second Fri. 6-9 pm.

Ursula Hobson Fine Art Framing, Inc.

1528 Waverly Street
Merchant Contact: Ursula Hobson
Discount Program: 10% Frequent Framer Discount to CCRA memberbers
Call for appointment

Updated Primer on Philadelphia Real Estate Taxes

The New World of Realty Taxes

At present, Philadelphia realty taxes are calculated as follows:

The current assessment, typically a fraction of actual market value, is multiplied by the “predetermined ratio” (32%) and multiplied again by the current tax rate of 9.771%, a calculation which results in an effective rate of 3.13%. Hence, a property currently assessed at $100,000 is taxed $3,130.

In February of 2013, under the Actual Value Initiative (the AVI) the Office of Property Assessment (OPA) issued new market value assessments for realty taxes due in 2014 which are intended to be calculated at:

The new AVI reassessment value multiplied by the AVI tax rate (to be determined by City Council and the Mayor this Spring and expected to be in the neighborhood of 1.2% to 1.5%. The Administration’s current suggested rate is 1.32%).[1]

Some upcoming deadlines in this new tax world are:

  • 1. July 31, 2013 last day to file for a Homestead Exemption (see page 7 for an explanation of the exemption).
  • 2. October 7, 2013 last day to file for an appeal before the Board of Revision of Taxes. These appeals may be filed even by those who did not request an administrative review of their AVI reassessment by the April 1, 2013 deadline.

While any number of questions remain about AVI, four points seem relatively certain.

  • The current system is broken for the reasons detailed on page 4. Basically, assessments have not kept up with market changes and the result is a system that is unfair.
  • The Mayor and Council seem committed to “revenue neutrality”, meaning that the total amount of taxes generated in AVI’s initial year should be no larger than the revenue total collected under the old system.
  • To maintain revenue neutrality, the current effective tax rate of 3.13% will be lowered so that, for the City as a whole, the lower rate, when multiplied by the higher assessment, will yield the same bottom line.
  • The AVI reassessments confirm the predictions of a Pew Report that there will “be a lot of owners who will see modest decreases – which means that they have been overtaxed in years past - and a smaller set of taxpayers facing increases, some of them steep”.[2]

Troubling Preliminary Impressions of AVI

Since the reassessments were mailed out in February, two clouds have appeared in the new world of realty taxes:

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY: Despite assurances that all AVI data would be available in February, CCRA only received the field data collected by the AVI assessors on March 21, ten days before the expiration of the April 1 first level review date. Further, there has been no public distribution of the formulas used to derive bottom line assessments.

QUESTIONS RE ASSESSMENT ACCURACY: Preliminary analyses of the available data by AXIS Philly, the Inquirer and the City Controller suggest that the margin of error between assessments and real world market values is not close to industry standards.. The Crosstown Coalition of Taxpayers, a band of 21 civic associations of which CCRA is a charter member, has hired a demographic statistician to work with volunteers on an exhaustive review of the available data. So far the Coalition’s team has only analyzed residential properties, but this partial survey confirms the earlier findings.

Real Estate Taxes and The City Budget

For fiscal year ending 2012, the real estate tax generated $1.134 billion, $501 million for the City (14.3% of $3.6 billion in total revenues) and $633 million for the School District (28% of $2.2 billion in receipts). On the City’s ledger, realty taxes ranked second only to the wage tax, which accounted for 34% of City receipts. In addition to its share of the real estate taxes, the School District receives 100% of the City’s Use and Occupancy Tax, which generated $108 million in 2011-12, so that real estate revenue from both sources amounted to approximately 33% of the District’s income.

An Overview of City Taxes As A Whole

Philadelphia’s current real estate taxes are low when compared to other East Coast cities which obtain about twice as much of their tax revenue from real estate.[3]

While Philadelphia’s real estate taxes may be a bargain compared to other cities, the overall tax burden shouldered by Philadelphians is higher than the tax load carried by citizens in most cities.[4] The story is the same for the taxes levied on Philadelphia’s businesses which ranked in the top 20 most taxed in a national survey of 421 cities.[5]

To compensate for its relatively low realty taxes, levies on wages and profits account for 66% of Philadelphia’s tax intake. In New York the wage/profit portion is 34%; in Washington DC, 35%.[6] Critics note that lightly taxed real estate can’t leave the City, which is not the case for employees whose wages are taxed and businesses whose profits are taxed. In fact, employees and businesses have decamped with depressing regularity. Despite a 4% uptick in 2011, City employment over the long term has nosedived from 746,000 in 1990 to 656,000 in 2011, and City job losses from 2000 to 2010 were 250% higher than in the suburbs and five times the national average [7]. This trend bodes ill for the City’s largest revenue source, the wage tax, which accounts for about 34% of all City income, including revenue from the Federal and State governments.

The Current Real Estate Tax System

The current structure is both opaque and unfair. The system lacks transparency because even when owners have a handle on their property’s value, convoluted calculations are needed to convert a home’s market value into its tax bill.[8] In addition to being opaque, a history of spotty and unprofessional assessments has created a system which unfairly levies widely varying tax bills on substantially similar properties.

Because Pennsylvania’s uniformity clause has been interpreted as barring the taxation of property at different rates,[9] the City developed a work around in the form of a second real estate tax, the Use and Occupancy (U&O) Tax of 5.51% assessed on the commercial use of real estate, but calculated on the assessed value of the real estate being used.[10]

The real estate tax rate has increased 17.3% via three raises in as many years, the last of which, enacted in 2012, amounted to 3.6 %. U&O taxes assessed against commercial usages were increased 20% last year, from 4.62% to 5.51%.

In 2012 it was estimated that 18% of the realty parcels in the City were in default, owing a total of $515 million, a sum which had increased 9.4% in the preceding year.[11]

AVI (Actual Value Initiative) Reassessment

In 2014, real estate taxes will be computed on AVI reassessments, delivered in February of this year, which purport to equal market value. According to press reports, 27,000 property owners filed requests for first level administrative reviews to be administered by the OPA. The deadline for review requests was April 1. All property owners, regardless of whether they filed for a first level review are entitled to appeal their bills to the Board of Revision of Taxes where the filing deadline is October 7. As matters stand now, no one can calculate their 2013 taxes due in 2014 until City Council and the Mayor legislate the AVI tax rate, a process that will occur later this Spring, probably in late May or early June.

Revenue Neutrality And The AVI Tax Rate

The Administration and various City Council members have pledged that AVI should be “revenue neutral”, meaning that the total amount of taxes generated under AVI should be no larger than the amount collected under the old system.[12] To achieve revenue neutrality, a lower tax rate will be applied to the higher assessments. But even if the total sum generated by the tax does not change, the amount paid by individual property owners in the new system will differ depending upon the differential between their current assessment and their property’s AVI assessed value.

In March, after the AVI reassessments were issued, the Mayor proposed a 1.32% rate with a $15,000 Homestead Exemption and set aside $30 million for unspecified “tax relief”. It is always difficult to predict tax yield but this package is certainly close to revenue neutral, although it appears to have some leeway built in for revenue shrinkage arising from appeals and collection difficulties.

The Impact of A Homestead Exemption

Both Council members and the Administration have discussed implementing a Homestead Exemption for resident owners. Such an exemption would reduce assessments by the amount of the exemption. Discussions as to the dollar amount of the exemption have included figures ranging from $10,000 to $30,000. [13] If the Administration’s suggested $15,000 exemption were enacted, a house or condominium assessed at $100,000 would be taxed at $85,000 so that, at the Administration’s proposed 1.32% rate, the tax bill would decrease by $192 from $1,300 to $1,108. If each of the City’s 340,000 home owners obtained a $15,000 exemption, total taxable values would decrease by $5.1 billion which would decrease the taxable intake by $67.3 million assuming the suggested 1.32% rate was in effect. In a revenue neutral scheme, the inclusion of a $15,000 exemption raises the tax rate by about .7% from 1.25% to 1.32%.

While the Homestead Exemption does raise tax bills for higher value homes, the increases generated would significantly impact the carrying charges for homes in only a few corners of the City’s most affluent neighborhoods. The tax increase on a $625,000 property generated by a $15,000 Household Exemption in a 1.32% system would only be $435/year or about 1.3% of the likely financing charges for such a parcel.[14] Few Philadelphia homes are worth more than $625,000.[15] The Homestead Exemption would not result in significant tax increases on homes in the City’s rapidly growing neighborhoods such as Graduate Hospital (av. sale price $296,308) or Northern Liberties (av. sales price $335,564).

Realty Tax Sources: Homes/Businesses/Non Profits

Any discussion of adjusting tax rates to AVI should consider the relative share of real estate taxes shouldered by commercial and residential properties. Currently, commercial properties account for 44% of the City’s real estate tax receipts, closer to 50% when the U&O receipts are considered. Philadelphia’s commercial properties pay more than those in Baltimore (38%) but less than commercial realty in Hartford (55%), Boston (61%) and Washington (64%).[16] Under the current assessment system, the largest commercial properties carry assessments that are closer to market value than the average residential assessments. Consequently, even though the 50 largest commercial properties all received increased assessments, those increased assessments are not large enough to offset the tax rate deductions . The upshot is that the 50 largest commercial properties collectively stand to reap realty tax savings of at least $25 million dollars. The conventional wisdom is that current assessments on smaller commercial properties have not kept up with market values, and, if this is correct, it is less likely that these properties will receive substantial tax savings. The Crosstown Coalition data team is examining these questions but, because the City dragged its feet on releasing data, has not reached conclusions as this Updated Primer is written.

Any discussion of tax rates also has to account for the large and growing percentage of land mass owned by the driving forces of Philadelphia’s economy - hospitals and universities which account for 36% of City employment[17]. All that employment is good for the wage tax, but, because “meds and eds” occupy tax exempt real estate, they diminish the intake for realty taxes. In 1995, a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) initiative gathered $9 million for the City from more than 40 nonprofits. That income dwindled over the years to $387,000 in 2011 after legislation limited the exposure of nonprofits to municipal challenges regarding their tax exempt status. However, in a decision characterized as a “game changer”, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently reinstated the former standards which led to the higher PILOT payments in the 90s. [18]

Work Arounds: Subsidies, Deferrals, & Revenue Caps

Any time taxes are adjusted, there are protests, and AVI is not an exception to that rule. Particularly troubling are complaints of long time residents in gentrified areas whose home values have increased not because they have improved their properties, but because investments made by new neighbors have increased values in the surrounding area. The value of homes owned by old timers in these neighborhoods may be out of kilter with their income levels. The logical fix would be a means test targeting tax relief for longtime homeowners which would take into account their income and assets. [19]

There are only three remedies for outsize real estate tax increases: cash subsidies, deferrals, and caps/freezes – all of which add complexity to the system and call upon taxpayers not included in these programs to shoulder their costs.

There are tax relief programs currently in place which do not provide the measures of relief needed to address issues presented by AVI:

  • Cash subsidies – In 2011, 12.2% (41,858) of the City’s owner residents received Pennsylvania Lottery property tax rebates averaging $546 given to elderly/low income citizens, a sum which would pay for $42,000 of assessed value in a 1.3% system or $37,600 in a 1.45% system.[20]
  • Deferrals – A homeowner whose real estate taxes are increased by more than 15% in any given year may apply to the City seeking a deferral until the home is sold although the balance deferred carries above market rate interest at 6%. There appear to be no participants in this deferral program. [21] Also available for low income residents is an installment payment program.[22], [23]
  • Caps/freezes – A property tax freeze protects older low income residents against tax rate or assessment revisions for which 13,362 owners qualified in 2011.[24]

Proposed Legislation Dealing with AVI’s Impact

As of April 8, nine bills have been introduced in City Council, with three of particular interest. Bill 130122 provides for the deferral of that portion of real estate taxes that exceeds 2.5 times the taxpayer’s 2013 tax bill, until the property is sold. It is limited to taxpayers whose household annual income is under $130,000, and the deferral, which would be charged with simple interest at 1-year U.S. treasury bill rates, cannot be used to reduce the tax payment in any year to less than $1,000. Bill 130142, which applies to all taxpayers, phases in tax increases over four years: for 2014, the tax due would be calculated by adding one’s 2013 tax bill (i.e., pre-AVI) to 25% of the difference between the 2013 bill and the 2014 tax bill; for 2015, the tax due would be calculated by adding together the tax paid in 2014 and 33% of the difference between that number and the 2014 tax bill; for 2016, the tax due would be calculated by adding together the tax paid in 2015 and 50% of the difference between that number and the 2014 tax bill; and for 2017, tax due would be the full amount of the 2014 tax bill. In a revenue neutral world, the enactment of either of these proposals would increase the tax rate to take account of the delayed/lost revenue. Bill 130081 eliminates the Homestead Exemption which would lower the tax rate for everyone. It is quite likely that, over the ensuing weeks, some of these 9 bills will be refined or withdrawn, and that additional legislation will be proposed.

Carrying AVI Into the Future

Looking down the road, market based assessments will permanently eliminate one current problem: the present system’s lack of transparency. Property owners will be able to easily calculate what they should pay and, perhaps more important, what their neighbors should pay. But as time passes, the current system’s second problem, fairness, will inevitably resurface unless assessments are regularly adjusted because future investments and urban trends will make some properties more valuable and depreciate values elsewhere, either on a comparative or absolute basis. Accordingly, future budgets must designate sufficient funds to ensure that regular reassessments are conducted by a workforce which is well staffed, properly funded, and adequately trained.


[1] This simple formula could become complicated if modifications are inserted such as the Homestead Exemption (see page 6) or caps/deferrals/subsidies (see page 8).

[2] “The Actual Value Initiative – Overhauling Property Taxes in Philadelphia”, November 28, 2012 Pew Charitable Trusts Philadelphia Research Initiative, authored by Emily Dowdall and Susan Warner and edited by Larry Eichel, referred to hereafter as “Pew Report”. Pg 13. This study is must reading for those interested in this topic and may be accessed on line at this link, www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports/Philadelphia_Research_Initiative/Philadelphia-Property-Taxes.pdf

[3] Philadelphia obtained 17% of its tax revenue from real estate while comparable figures for New York and Washington DC were 41% and 36% respectively. Center City Reports, “Employment: Creating Opportunity for Philadelphia Residents” Sept 2012 pg. 3. Philadelphia real estate revenues per capita are only about a quarter of the amount generated in Washington and a third of what is collected in Boston and Hartford, all cities where commercial properties pay a higher percentage of real estate taxes than is the case in Philadelphia. Pew Report, pg. 8.

[4] While apples to apples comparisons of the tax burdens between cities are difficult to compile and should be taken with a grain of salt, it is still depressing to read a study of the burden of major taxes on families in the most populous cities in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. For families with incomes ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 in 2011, Philadelphia ranked either second or third most expensive. “Tax Rates and Tax Burdens in The District of Columbia: A Nationwide Comparison 2011”. Issued September 2012.

[5] 2011 Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey. This survey is frequently used by businesses in relocation searches. In the area from Washington DC north, Newark and New York were the only east coast cities included in the top twenty most expensive list.

[6] Center City Reports, “Employment: Creating Opportunity for Philadelphia Residents” Sept 2012, pg. 3.

[7] Pew Charitable Trusts Philadelphia Research Initiative, “Philadelphia 2011 The State of the City”, pg. 14.

[8] Philadelphia uses a fractional assessment system that converts a property’s market value to an assessed value by multiplying the assessed value by the “predetermined ratio”, 32%. To calculate a tax bill, an owner must multiply the “predetermined ratio” (32%) by the assessed value and multiply that product again by the current tax rate (9.771%) to arrive at the 3.13% effective in 2012.

[9] Pa.Const. art. 8, s 1, P.S. (1969). In other jurisdictions such as Washington DC, Boston and Chicago, tax rates levied on commercial, industrial and/or vacant property are two to three times higher than the rates for residential property. Pew Report pg. 5.

[10] Wanamaker v. Phil. Sch. Dist., 441 Pa. 567, 274 A.2d 524 (1971).

[11] Plan Philly June 9, 2012, Patrick Kerkstra.

[12] Pittsburgh, but not Philadelphia, is prohibited by state “anti windfall” legislation from gathering more than 105% of its previous year’s realty tax revenues via increased assessments, as distinguished from an increase in the tax rate. 16 P.S. 4980.2.

[13] This past Fall, City property owners received a Homestead Exemption application form accompanied by a cover letter which suggested that the homestead amount would be $30,000 but the letter also contained an asterisk noting that the figure was “subject to change” because Council has yet to pass a bill setting the exemption amount. The extended deadline for filing an exemption is July 31,2013.

[14] Assuming a $500,000, 30 year, 5% mortgage.

[15] The average 2012 sales price in the four Center City zip codes (02,03,06 and 07) covering Society Hill, Wash West, and the Rittenhouse Fitler neighborhoods was $546,703. Source Trend Multiple Listing Service.

[16] Pew Report pg. 6.

[17] Center City Reports, “Employment: Creating Opportunity for Philadelphia Residents” Sept. 2012, pg. 4.

[18] 10 P.S. 371 et seq.; Mesivtah Eitz v. Pike County Bd. 44 A3d 3 (Pa. 2012). Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 2, 2012, “Ruling ‘Game Changer’ for Non Profits”.

[19] A state statute permits gentrification relief for longtime residents but, for Philadelphia County only, bars financial need from being a determinant. 72 PS 4749.6.

[20] The program is available to owners over 65 or widowed owners over 50 with incomes of less than $35,000.

[21] Sec. 19-1307 Philadelphia Code. The Revenue Department is directed to review the income, expenses and assets of the applicant in using its discretion to issue the deferral. The Pew Report at pg 15 states that “the program has not had a single participant”.

[22] The Pew Report at pg 15 states that the 7 other cities surveyed did not restrict installment programs to low income residents.

[23] Part of the City’s tax delinquencies, albeit a relatively small part, may arise because 40% of the City’s homeowners have no mortgage so that their taxes are due in a lump sum rather than amortized through 12 monthly mortgage payments.

[24] Pew Report pg. 14. The program is available to owners 65 or older with incomes of less than $31,500 for a couple or $23,500 for single persons.

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