Here are some of the latest Allegheny County property assessment headlines as of November 25, 2012.
11/9/12: County Executive Fitzgerald Fires BOTH Assessment Managers.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has fired both the Chief Manager and the Appeals Manager of the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessments. The county is under a court ordered deadline of December 17, 2012, to finish all residential appeal hearings. Many commercial hearings may not be scheduled until 2013. Critics are questioning the timing of the firings.
Opinion: This is a risky move for the county. The appeals office overall has done very well in handling the large volume of appeal hearings. However, changing leadership as the court order deadlines loom may hurt the efficiency of the OPA office, as well as the morale of the staff. It will be interesting to see if the county tries to use these firings as a basis for not being able to comply with future court orders concerning the reassessments.
Read more: Pittsburgh Post Gazette (11/9/12)
11/16/12: Allegheny County to Reduce Millage Rate Back Down to 4.73.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has proposed a 17% drop in the county millage rate for 2013. The millage rate would reduce from 5.69 to 4.73. What many people still do not know though, is that the county raised the millage rate in 2012 almost 20 percent from 4.69 to 5.69. The county thus kept basically the same millage rate and reaped the benefit of the reassessment increases.
Opinion: The county cleverly preempted the Pennsylvania wind-fall statute. State law forbids any taxing entity from collecting more than a 5% wind-fall in real estate revenue in any given reassessment year. By raising the millage rates 20% in 2012, the county was able to reduce millage rates in 2013 without having to actually off-set any additional monies received from the increased reassessments. In other words, the county raised property taxes 17% in a reassessment year.
Read more: Pittsburgh Post Gazette (11/16/12)
11/16/12: Allegheny County Allowing Some Assessment Appeals to Be Negotiated Causes Controversy.
Since late October 2012, the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review, for the first time ever, has been allowing taxing entities and property owners to settle the assessment appeals prior to the actual formal hearing. This rule was only instituted after about one-half of the appeals had already been heard. The Office of Property Assessment recently created a form agreement which can be used between taxing entities and property owners to help reduce the case-load the county is handling.
Opinion: While there certainly may be a benefit to settlement talks prior to the first hearing, it is not fair to property owners to have different rules depending upon when their hearing was scheduled. Regardless, we typically recommend not entering into settlement negotiations unless the case is appealed to the BOV. Personally, I prefer to win the first hearing at the BPAAR and then only negotiate if the school appeals. Of course, each case is unique, but I believe the school, (if they choose to settle early) are not just arbitrarily agreeing to significant reductions, and it can be more advantageous to negotiate from a position of strength if you can win the first hearing and the school is forced to appeal.
Read more: Pittsburgh Post Gazette (11/16/12)
11/19/12: Request to Lower Property Assessments in Poorer Communities Denied.
Judge R. Stanton Wettick has denied a request to lower hundreds of thousands of property assessments in poorer neighborhoods.
Read more: Judge Denies Request to Lower Assessments
If you have any additional questions about property assessments, or would like a free consultation about your property tax appeal case, please feel free to contact Attorney Noah Paul Fardo or Attorney Nicole Hauptman for a free consultation at (412) 802-6666, or email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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