An Allegheny County Council Committee has voted to instruct the Solicitor to file suit against the state Legislature in an effort to force it to rewrite Pennsylvania’s property assessment laws. It would have been wonderful if the Council had spent the time and effort trying to get up-to-date accurate assessments of properties they have spent trying to avoid doing the right thing and making ridiculous claims about the unfairness of being forced to do the right thing.
The Allegheny Institute has written for many years about the need for the Legislature to reform the state laws governing assessments. Such reform would include mandatory assessments at least every 3 to 5 years, state verification of sales price data, uniformity of assessment standards and state training for assessors.
Where was the Council when these straightforward and common sense recommendations were being offered on multiple occasions? They were busy concocting and defending assessment schemes that perpetuated well documented inequities. Now that the Supreme Court says do the re-assessment and has suggested the state reform assessment legislation to bring it into the 20th century, the Council wants to get on board and appear to be doing something to protect those who have benefitted from under assessments all these years. Cynics might conclude a political motivation is behind this latest move by Council.
Council chair keeps telling us what a competitive disaster a re-assessment will be. What about the disaster that happens every year when tax bills go out and over assessed and correctly assessed owners are forced to pay more so the under assessed can pay less than their fair share? And how has the County’s scheme protected against school and municipal tax rate hikes? In short, it hasn’t. Many schools and municipalities have been boosting their tax rates during the County’s base year freeze. The County avoided a tax hike only through being granted the drink and car rental tax. So much for worrying about the taxpayers as the Council and Executive incessantly claim to be doing. What a scam!