The Next Reassessment

The County is putting the final touches on the reassessment of real property, the first one in a few years. It will go into effect on January 1, 2013, and the County, its municipalities, and its school districts will have to adjust their millage rates to adjust to the new values. That is all yet to come, but the question of "when do we do this again" has already come up.

Sounds a lot like Allegheny County, doesn’t it? It is not. In fact, it is the county tucked up in the far northwest corner of PA, Erie County. After spending many years not reassessing, the County lost a court battle and reassessed in 2003. After doing that one, Erie’s County Council passed an ordinance in 2005 that mandated reassessments every eight years, giving way to the one set to go into effect in seven months. That time frame is still longer that what the IAAO would recommend as best practices.

If 2005 rings a bell, it should. That was the year Allegheny County released new assessed values that were to go into effect in 2006. That would then lead to annual assessments after another three year breather. That was all scrapped and the base year plan was hatched. We have for several years been pondering what comes next for Allegheny County’s reassessments.

Of course, Erie’s question-and Allegheny’s, and all other counties’-could be answered if the General Assembly comes up with a mandatory schedule for assessments, crafts a statistical trigger, or eliminates property taxes altogether.

One and a Half Cheers for County Assessment Office

For years and, most recently, over the months leading up to the mailing of court ordered reassessments to Allegheny County property owners, the Allegheny Institute has urged the Assessment Office to include information on the new assessment notice that would show the owner how his/her assessment change compares to the average for the County, school district and municipality. With that information the property owner would know immediately whether tax bills for the property were about to rise, stay the same or go down, assuming the taxing bodies all rolled back millage rates to eliminate any revenue windfall resulting from the reassessment.

The Assessment Office has taken a partial step toward providing property owners the information the Institute has been recommending. The Office has created a link on its web site in the "What Do You Want to Know" section that enables property owners to look up the increase in assessment values for their municipality and school district and offers the owners guidance as to how to figure out if their County, school district and municipal tax bills are going up, down or staying the same.

This is a major breakthrough given the County’s antipathy toward the reassessment. Of course, the County is not advertising this feature heavily and taxpayers who are not aggressive in searching the Assessment Office web site will not know about the link, especially since it is buried in the menu options on the "What Do You Want to Know" page. The County should be touting the feature heavily and making it far more prominent on the web site. And it should be making preparations to put all the necessary information on future assessment notices.