Defending School District Appeals
This page is written to help property owners in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in defending school district appeals.
School Districts in Allegheny County continue to file property tax appeals against recent home-buyers. We believe it is unconstitutional for the school districts to file appeals against only recent-home buyers. We aggressively defend school district appeals and will litigate the cases if necessary to obtain the lowest property assessment possible.
- Defending School District Appeals
- Defending Municipality Appeals
- Defending County Appeals
- Representation at the Court of Common Pleas (Board of Viewers)
- Interim Property Assessment Notices
Defense Testimonial: 10/26/10
I retained Flaherty Fardo, LLC to defend me against the city’s appeal of my property tax assessment. I received numerous solicitation letters from various law firms seeking to represent me. What made Flaherty Fardo stand out was the quality of the information available on their website, as well as the knowledge, experience and professionalism of its lawyers and staff – particularly Attorney Noah Fardo. Thanks to their skill and advocacy, the city lost its appeal and I will not face an unexpected and significant increase in my real estate taxes. I have recommended their services to friends confronting the same situation, and Flaherty Fardo achieved a favorable outcome for them as well. I was extremely satisfied with Flaherty Fardo’s representation, and while I hope that I will never need a lawyer, it is comforting to know that I can turn to them. Heather S., Pittsburgh Resident
Defending School District Appeals (Property Assessments)
There are 45 school districts in Allegheny County. Every year, any taxing entity (County, School, or Municipality) and all property owners have the right to file new Allegheny County property tax appeals. The deadline for 2010, is March 31, 2010.
Our Pittsburgh law firm has extensive experience in defending school district and taxing entity appeals.
Normally, the taxing entities (County, School and Local) file tax appeals against property owners if they believe an assessment is too low on a property, and of course property owners most often file property tax appeals if they believe their assessment is too high.
Over 90% of the taxing entity appeals are filed by the school district only. There are 3 reasons why:
- The school district files the most appeals because they typically have the highest millage rate and therefore the most financial incentive.
- The municipalities typically do not file appeals because they often have lower millage rates and “piggy back” off of the school districts, Most municipalities realize that they can receive additional taxes without paying any legal fees. (There are some municipalities that do aggressively get involved).
- The county’s position is supposed to support the 2002 ‘base year’ system, and what the County certified. Unfortunately, the county sometimes supports the school districts. Very rarely if ever, have we witnessed the county strongly oppose a school district. Basically, their friends.
If you have questions about defending a school district property tax assessment appeal then call Noah Paul Fardo, Esq. for a free consultation at 412.802.6666.
Why is the School District Appealing me?
Since 2004, School Districts have been aggressively filing property appeals against property owners. There target has primarily been recent home buyers. Their rational is that if you bought a house for $500,000.00, and you are only assessed at $300,000.00 then your property taxes should be raised closer to your sales price. On first glance, this seems rationale. However, it’s flawed for several reasons.
First, if two neighbors are identical, and the county certifies the value of both properties at $300,000.00, then both pay taxes on an assessed value of $300,000.00. However, let’s assume, one of the houses then sells for $500,000.00. The school district will file a property tax appeal against the one property only based upon the recent sale price. In essence, the school districts want to establish that two identical should be assessed differently because one of them sold. We believe it is unconstitutional to assess identical properties differently.
Second, a sale price is not always indicative of the true market value. Property owners often pay higher or lower than the true price of a property for many reasons. We have had clients move to Pittsburgh from New York, Virginia, and California, all areas where market values were substantially higher. These owners all substantially overpaid for properties based upon their prior locations and the real estate markets in those locations.
Also, Judge Wettick’s November 10, 2009 Opinion and Order of Court further clarified in a 33 page Opinion why appealing just the recent home buyers makes the use of an indefinite base year unconstitutional.
Can We Defend These School District Appeals?
First, the school districts are not always prepared. When they file an appeal against a property owner, the school district has the burden of proof. Legally, to change an assessment, a valuation method must be used. There are 3 valuation methods: (Sales Comparison) (Income/Expense) (Cost Approach).
The school districts most often simply try to present the deed for the sale of the subject property as a basis to raise the property taxes. A sale of a subject can be persuasive, but is not authoritative. A valuation method must be used.
In addition, under the 2002 ‘base year’ system, the test is still what the property was worth on January 1, 2002? What the property sold for in 2008 or 2009, should matter as much as what the property sold for in 1995 or 1996, (both are 6 and 7 years removed from the base year respectively).
Does that mean we are analyzing 12 – 14 years of sales (1995-2009) for Allegheny County assessment appeals? Of course not.
The reality is that the school districts hope that the property owners do not appear or appear by themselves. Property owners are at a severe disadvantage when they try to represent themselves.
First, they do not the system, the rules of law, or the forum involved. The school district attorneys are friends with the county lawyers, the municipal lawyers and the hearing officers. They work with each other every day, for months and years at a time. It is natural that friendships evolve.
Second property owners do not have the advantage of negotiating and litigating cases against the taxing entities previously. We know for fact that the school districts and hearing officers do not treat all property owners the same. If anything should anger Allegheny residents, it is the fact, that personality and relationships is still factoring into assessments. The assessment is not blind, and in our humble opinion, can be very unfair for certain property owners. We have seen basically identical houses on a street be settled by school districts with large discrepancies between the settlements.
Third and most importantly, the lawyer for the school can cross-examine the property owner to actually make their case against the property owner. this might be the strongest argument not to represent yourself. Often, at the hearing, the school district is only prepared with a copy of the Deed showing the new price. Some school districts are obviously more prepared than others and will bring comparable sales. But as stated a copy of the Deed SHOULD NOT meet the school’s burden of proof. If the homeowner appears, the school district may cross-examine the homeowner, and use their testimony as evidence to increase the owner’s assessment.
Be Careful About Attending the Hearing:
The School District Lawyer May Ask You:
- Q: Do you have a mortgage on your property? (How much?)
- Q: What was the listing price of your home?
- Q: Was there an appraisal performed?
- Q: Have there been improvements or upgrades to your property?
- Q: Have you refinanced your property?
Depending on the property’s owners responses, the school can actually have a better case with the property owner present than if they would have simply stayed at home. We are NOT advising anyone to stay at home or miss their hearing. However, understanding ‘burden of proof’ and understanding what the best evidence to submit is, does make a difference. Very rarely will I advise a property owner to attend the hearing, unless I believe it is necessary or beneficial based upon the circumstances.
Each case is certainly unique. However, defending school district appeals is really about being more prepared than the school with solid evidence, legal arguments, and the ability to negotiate the best settlement. The property tax appeal attorneys at FLAHERTY FARDO have a reputation of fairness and success in this business and have helped hundreds of property owners successfully defend school district appeals. we don not guarantee success, but we do reassure our clients that we will treat each case as though it is our own home being appealed.
For a free consultation, call our offices at 412.802.6666, or simply email us your address and we will review your case for free.
Read more: Allegheny County Property Assessment FAQ’s
Read Our Latest Property Assessment Articles:
- Property Assessment Updates From Allegheny County & Washington County
- Secrets to Winning Your 2013 Allegheny Tax Appeal
- Allegheny County Cracks Down on Charitable Tax Exempt Properties
- Judge Wettick Denies Appraisals as Absolute for Property Assessments
- Allegheny County Ignores Appeal Results & Sends Wrong Tax Bills.
- 2013 Allegheny County Assessment Updates
- Allegheny County Assessments News and Updates
- Judge Denies Request to Lower Assessments
- Should Commercial Property Owners Bypass the First Hearing?
- Status Update for Allegheny County Property Assessments
- RESULTS OF INFORMAL HEARINGS RELEASED
- Allegheny County Reassessment Update
- Will Legislation Stop the Reassessments?
- How to Defend 2012 & 2013 School Tax Appeals.
- “The Fix is In.” – Why 7/10 Are Under-Assessed.
- 3/4/12 – Attorney Fardo to Speak at Seminar on Tax Exemptions.
- 2/8/12 – Did Outsourcing Cause Allegheny County Assessment Chaos?
- 2/8/12 – Allegheny County 2012 Reassessment Update.
- 1/24/12 – Assessment Deadline for City Extended – Others Waiting.
- 1/23/12 – Allegheny County New Assessment Website is a NIGHTMARE for Taxpayers.
Table of Contents for Allegheny County Property Assessments:
- Allegheny Property Assessments Home Page
- Residential Property Tax Appeals
- Defending School District Appeals
- Commercial Property Tax Appeals
- Allegheny County Property Assessment FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions).
- The History of Property Assessments in Allegheny County.
- Our Tax Appeal Results & Testimonials.
Free Online Property Assessment Consultation:
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