Another Court-Ordered Reassessment in SW PA
A ruling last week by the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas orders the County’s Chief Assessor and the Board of Commissioners to “…submit to the Court for approval a written contract entered into the by the County with an independent contractor to provide services to the County in preparation for and completion of a computer assisted reassessment of al tax parcels in Beaver County by June 15, 2020”. The contract is to be executed by June 15th of this year, assuming the County does not appeal the ruling to higher state courts (the County did not present evidence or witnesses at the Common Pleas level proceedings). If appealed the case would go to Commonwealth Court and then possibly the Supreme Court.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had a role in both the southwestern Pennsylvania reassessments in Allegheny and Washington Counties in the past decade. The Beaver ruling cites heavily from the Allegheny County ruling in the Clifton case on how a base year can violate the uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Beaver County has not undertaken a reassessment since 1982 and taxes property at 50% of the 1982 assessed value. The Court ruled that the base year as applied in Beaver County “..does not and cannot provide for uniformity of taxation for the 96,000 tax parcels…” and held that the plaintiffs in the case had proven there was a lack of uniformity in assessments due to the long time period since the last reassessment.
The ruling also points out that many other states require annual or periodic reassessments. That has been known for a long time yet the state has to make a change regarding that situation. There are counties with base years older than Beaver County’s 1982, which the opinion and order notes was the year the state made base year assessments legal. It will take either an action of county officials, state officials, or a court decision to update these assessments.