Another Western PA County Will Reassess

If Indiana County sticks to what has been announced as the start of a three-year reassessment process that will produce new values for 2016, it will leave the small fraternity of counties belonging to the "pre-1969" club. Those counties, according to the State Tax Equalization Board and our research, have not done a reassessment since 1969 or earlier. Indiana County did change its predetermined ratio (the ratio of a property’s assessment to its market value, used for taxation purposes) in 2006, but its last true comprehensive reassessment was done before the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Is there anything from Allegheny County’s experience that could guide Indiana County?

Some officials from Allegheny County might say that while Indiana is voluntarily going forward Allegheny was forced by the courts to reassess. Recall, however, that Allegheny County Council did pass an ordinance in 2002 that said new values would go into effect in 2006. Fear about new values led to various plans before deciding no new assessment would be the best assessment. Indiana will have a good dose of "sticker shock" with such old values.

The more education on the assessment the better, especially when it comes to state law requirements on windfalls. New laws are on the books dealing with what happens following a reassessment. In Allegheny County, since it is the only county of the second class, this is Act 71 of 2005. Indiana County, a county of the sixth class (population ranges of 45,000 to 89,999), has to follow the requirements of Act 93 of 2010. All school districts in the state fall under Act 1 of 2006. The difference between the two is that once a revenue neutral rate is established if the taxing body wants to get more tax revenue in Allegheny County the limit is 5% whereas in Indiana (and all counties other than first [Philadelphia] and second [Allegheny] class) it is 10%.

Taxpayers have to be attentive as well. Note that just as Allegheny County did in 2011 and as Butler County announced it would do last week Indiana County is planning a millage rate hike. That means everyone’s taxes will go up. In a reassessment it is possible that some people’s taxes may go down. Taxpayers need to understand that, and county government can help.