With One Week to Go, Fate of Reassessment Referendum Up in the Air

With One Week to Go, Fate of Reassessment Referendum Up in the Air

Voters in Lackawanna County, where the last time a countywide reassessment was performed was fifty years ago, are supposed to decide next Tuesday via a ballot question whether the County should go forward with a reassessment (here and here) –on the same day they will be voting on a statewide question on expanding the homestead exemption.

As of now there is judicial involvement following a lawsuit brought by private citizens over the wording of the Lackawanna County question.  No decision has yet been made on whether the question will stay on the ballot (the question asks if the County should incur up to $13 million in debt to carry out the reassessment).  Experts on the issue in Pennsylvania cannot recall a countywide ballot question on whether to go forward with a reassessment.  Courts were heavily involved in the Allegheny County and Washington County reassessments.

There are obviously different ways this could go: the court could disallow the question from going on the ballot and then voters in the County don’t get a say on the measure.  Then it becomes a decision of the commissioners as to what to do next, including whether to go forward with a reassessment at all.  Or the question could be placed on the ballot and approved or disapproved by the voters.  Approval pushes the process forward, but what happens if the price tag of the endeavor goes higher than $13 million?  A disapproval tells the commissioners that the County does not want to be reassessed, or at least not at the debt price tag put forward on the question.