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Allegheny County Reassessment Wreaks Havoc on Property Tax Rates

The Allegheny County property reassessment and appeals are wreaking havoc on local communities trying to figure out their 2013 budgets.

The Allegheny County property reassessment and parade of appeals are wreaking havoc on local communities trying to figure our their 2013 budgets and tax rates.

The problems arise from the uncertainty of what the actual final assessment will yield since thousands of county property owners challenged the numbers and many have had them reduced.

The final numbers won’t be released to each community until mid-December, making it nearly impossible for government officials to hone in on a property tax rate. However, each town must advertise that millage rate now and pass its budget before the end of the year.

“This is a shot in the dark,” Scott Township Board of Commissioners President Tom Castello said.

To add to the mess, the towns are permitted to raise property tax revenue by only 5 percent so as not to use the reassessment as a major tax increase. Bob McTiernan, who is Scott Township’s lawyer, advised the commissioners to estimate the millage rate slightly on the high side to make it easier to reduce the number if needed.

“Everyone is experimenting with this trying to comply,” McTiernan said.

Every other town in Allegheny County, such as Bridgeville, Collier, Heidelberg and South Fayette, surely are facing similar problems.

The Scott Township commissioners ripped the assessment and the process that led to the tardy numbers.

“This assessment is, at best, terrible,” Scott Township Commissioner Bill Well said.

Castello didn’t disagree, but said there is nothing they could do but comply.

“It is ridiculous,” Castello said. “But, unfortunately, this is the deck we’re playing with.”

Each municipality must pass its budget by the end of December. A property owner’s new tax bill will be determined by how much their assessment increased compared to the rest of the community.

Below is a list of area towns and the average the properties increased. The numbers were released in February and are preliminary because they do not reflect the results after all appeals.

 

Increases By Municipality Before Appeals

Bridgeville – 42 percent  (Homes increased 42 percent)

Collier Township – 35 percent  (Homes increased 25 percent)

Heidelberg – 35 percent  (Homes increased 38 percent)

Scott Township – 33 percent  (Homes increased 28 percent)

South Fayette - 34 percent

Upper St. Clair – 22 percent

 

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Mike Jones December 06, 2012 at 12:11 AM
I'll be the first one to admit that I hate paying property taxes. They're way too high. But I'm not sure if HB 1776 is the answer. It could be, but I need to hear more about the ramifications of changing the system. It can't be much worse, but I think many Pennsylvanians want to know if it fixes the problem and is fair.
David Baldinger December 07, 2012 at 03:15 AM
As one of the leaders of the taxpayer coalition that helped to develop and author this legislation I am intimately aware of the details and the fiscal aspects of the bill. Of course the proposal doesn't match the funding. The legislation was written in good faith based on the best available numbers from the House Appropriations Committee staff and the Governor's 2012-2013 budget book. We always knew that is was likely the numbers would be somewhat inaccurate and planned to amend the legislation after the House Appropriations Committee finished their analysis and issued the required fiscal note. The IFO report preceded the the AC analysis and those are the numbers that are being used to amend the bill for the 2013-2014 introduction. BTW, the AC analysis was issued shortly after the IFO report and the numbers were essentially identical. Continued...
David Baldinger December 07, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Since the IFO report was issued I have heard politicians who oppose the legislation use the shortfall as a weapon against HB 1776/SB 1400, rather than using it as a tool to make needed changes. Many of these members oppose the legislation not because of its merits but because it offends one or another of the special interests that do not want to see this bill become law. To see who is applying this pressure and attempting to kill the legislation, just research the list of testifiers at the House and Senate Finance Committee hearings. Continued...
David Baldinger December 07, 2012 at 03:16 AM
The most important point here, I believe, is the grassroots involvement in HB 1776/SB 1400 and our work with Rep. Jim Cox and Sen. Dave Argall on this measure. From the earliest discussions of this version of the legislation in November 2010, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations has been a full partner in the drafting of the Property Tax Independence Act. This legislation is a fully collaborative effort between lawmakers and the taxpayers who support it and, because of this collaboration, has gained widespread acceptance by residents from across the Commonwealth. It is truly the people's legislation and as close to a taxpayer initiative as you're going to get in Pennsylvania. All I ask from this is that the legislation is reported fairly.
Mike Jones December 11, 2012 at 02:51 PM
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that the deadline for towns to set their budgets and millage rates is being delayed until Jan. 31... http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/allegheny-county-millage-

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