Paraphrasing the legal language, here’s what the Supreme Court of PA said in its decision on the County’s assessment last spring: the County’s base year is unconstitutional, and we hand the decision back to the Court of Common Pleas to come up with a reasonable timeframe to fix the issue. Judge Wettick is, once again, center stage on the issue. Yesterday parties to the case batted around what constitutes a "reasonable timeframe".
The County feels that the Supreme Court wanted a full reassessment and such an exercise would take two to three years to complete. The County’s former chief assessment officer-the person who once said that the updated 2005 numbers met international standards for uniformity and accuracy-said that using those numbers now would be "unacceptable". What hypocrisy! Counsel for the taxpayers who brought suit against the base year presented testimony and experts who felt the matter could be resolved in a couple of months, basically as a stopgap measure.
No ruling has come as of this writing. So here’s what we would suggest the Judge should do: tell the County that it needs to have a reassessment completed by this coming March (about the time when County real estate taxes are due) or adjust the mailing of tax notices until the reassessment is done. Corollary to that ruling, the Judge should declare that taxpayers don’t have to pay any property taxes (County, municipal, or school district) until an updated, fairer assessment is complete. This would prevent an unconstitutional collection of taxes.