Assessment Task Force Shies Away From Solutions

Nearly three years after the Supreme Court ruled Allegheny County’s base year plan to be in violation of the uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution comes the report of a Task Force on reassessments.  This latest foray into looking at the state’s seemingly insoluble assessment problem was created pursuant to a resolution passed by the General Assembly in 2011. 


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House Plays Politics with Court Order

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a moratorium on court-ordered property reassessments until the matter can be studied further. This moratorium would not apply to counties going through voluntary reassessments and it would be optional for those counties going through court-ordered reassessments. Interestingly enough this legislation seems to primarily benefit Allegheny County and its Chief Executive who just lost a State Supreme Court Ruling regarding his property reassessment scheme. While this piece of legislation is unlikely to make it through the Senate, it serves as an illustration of politics trumping good governance.

The moratorium would expire on June 30, 2011 or until the study is complete, whichever comes first. Interestingly enough this date delays any decisions from being made until after the Gubernatorial election in 2010, for which Allegheny County’s Chief Executive is considering a run. Of course he once used anger over property assessments to propel himself into the County Executive’s seat and will do anything he can to make sure this same anger doesn’t derail his aspirations for the Governor’s chair.

But the Supreme Court ruled that a base-year assessment system is unconstitutional as used in Allegheny County which locks in inequities as properties in growing neighborhoods, over time, become under assessed while those in declining neighborhoods become over assessed. While the Court suggested the General Assembly take up the issue of base year assessments, this recent legislation from the House is not what they had in mind. Obviously members of the House are also afraid of voter outrage as the roll call shows only one vote against and 196 in favor. Instead of tackling the issue head-on, they have decided to play politics. The property owners of Pennsylvania deserve better.