Reassessment Manual Addresses How to Contract, But Not When It is Time
Due to litigation and problems arising from the property tax assessment system in Pennsylvania, a panel to address the problem, the Property Assessment Reform Task Force, was formed. Recall that in 2012 a task force on reassessments passed on devising a mandated county reassessment cycle or a statistical indicator.
The new task force has been working on a variety of assessment related proposals, and at its most recent meeting released its Model RFP and Contracting Guidelines for County Reassessment Services manual to “…help counties ensure that a reassessment is conducted appropriately and implemented successfully.”
It does not say when to carry one out. In fact, in the opening boilerplate language of what would serve as a request for proposals for a contractor it states:
The Commissioners [or equivalent governing body in a home rule county] of _____ County have voted to proceed with a reassessment of all real property in the county to achieve equitable assessments. [There may be other factors contributing to the County’s decision to conduct a countywide reassessment that the County will want to include, e.g., passage of time since the last reassessment, assessment-sales ratio studies, property market shifts.]
Not included in that language is that the Commonwealth has passed a law calling for a regular cycle of reassessing or that a court has ordered the county to carry one out. The courts were involved in reassessments in Allegheny and Washington Counties and could be the case with Beaver County as well. A later section in the manual has a point called “impetus for reassessment” that could leave room for that point. And the task force is supposed to supposed to develop a self-evaluation tool for use in a pilot program sometime in the coming fiscal year.
The manual does stress the importance of a public information campaign. This was a point emphasized in Washington County that was very valuable for taxpayers:
The understanding by the public of the goals of the reassessment and the process used cannot be overstated to help ensure a successful implementation. To this end, the County should give careful thought to the public relations challenges that may exist in the County and how those can best be addressed.
As we have pointed out before, a regular cycle would reduce the sticker shock and unease about conducting a reassessment.