This article will provide readers with the latest updates concerning the Allegheny County assessments. The latest three developments are as follows:
Each of these topics is discussed below.
1. The 2013 Proposed Millage Rates in the City of Pittsburgh
The City of Pittsburgh confirmed this week that the 2013 millage rates across Allegheny County are going to be decreased as a result of the reassessment.
Legally, taxing entities are not permitted to realize more than a 5% increase in real estate tax revenue in any given reassessment year. Because of this anti-windfall statute, taxing entities across the County have been scrambling to determine the accurate assessment values in their area so they can meet the deadline in setting their respective millage rates.
This has been especially difficult as thousands of Allegheny county assessment appeals are still pending. While most school districts and municipalities run on a fiscal year from July 1st through June 30th, the City of Pittsburgh runs on a traditional calendar year. Because the City was required to reduce their millage rates first, this is a strong indicator that school districts and municipalities throughout the County will follow suit.
The 2013 millage rate for Allegheny County itself was reduced from 5.69 mills in 2012 to 4.73 mills in 2013. Earlier this week, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl proposed a 2013 City of Pittsburgh budget that would reduce the taxation rate for City properties from 10.8 mills in 2012 to 7.56 mills in 2013. On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh School District released its proposed 2013 budget, following suit by proposing a reduction from 13.92 mills in 2012 to 9.65 mills in 2013. Both the City of Pittsburgh, and the City of Pittsburgh School District are legally required to finalize their 2013 millage rates by January 31, 2013.
So what does this mean for property owners? It means that at least in the City of Pittsburgh, many property owners will see their overall taxes reduced in 2013. This should also give hope to property owners in the surrounding areas, because this is a good indicator that similar large reductions are likely in other school districts and municipalities.
2. Rich Fitzgerald’s Proposed Legislation – Another Chance to Appeal in 2013?
Last week, Rich Fitzgerald announced legislation that would provide both property owners and taxing entities another chance to appeal 2013 Allegheny County assessment values.
This one-time amendment would alter the administrative code in 2013, essentially allowing property owners and school districts a second bite of the apple. If this legislation is passed, property owners will have until April 1, 2013, to file an appeal of their 2013 assessment value regardless of whether or not they appealed this same value in 2012.
If this legislation is not passed, property owners will have to wait until 2014 to file an appeal. Based on the initial reaction to this proposed amendment, it appears that council will approve this proposal.
Ultimately, this is the right outcome for property owners. This is especially true for people who purchased property in 2012, or missed the 2012 appeal deadline for legitimate reasons. Presently, the only way to file a late appeal is to appear in front of Judge Wettick. This requirement is nerve-racking and inconvenient for property owners who are not familiar with the judicial process and have difficulties arranging transportation to get downtown. Allowing 2013 appeals this year would make the process much easier for everyone involved.
On January 7, 2013, a class action lawsuit was brought against Allegheny County and the Board of Property Assessments Appeals and Review (the “BPAAR”) by 11 property owners. The BPAAR is the legislative government body who was tasked with managing the 100,000 appeals filed in 2012, and also the body that is required to approve the decision for each of these appeals.
This lawsuit mainly focuses on the frustration of property owners who obtained certified appraisals for their 2013 appeals, and did not receive reductions after their appraisals were presented as evidence in their formal property appeal hearings. In many of these cases, these appraisals were not refuted by any evidence supplied by the school district or municipality. The lawsuit also requests that hearing officer reports (notes made by the hearing officer during the hearing and containing their recommendation of value based on the evidence) be sent along with the decision to property owners.
Overall, it will be interesting to see how this lawsuit will play out. While there is a relative lack of transparency in the Allegheny County assessment appeals process, requiring that an appraisal value be accepted carte blanche seems equally problematic. As the recent mortgage crisis illustrates, appraisal values are not always the best evidence of fair market value. If the appraisal value is not well-supported by the evidence, it would not make sense that the value must be accepted without any further examination into the value.
If you have any additional questions about property assessments, or would like a free consultation about your property tax appeal case, please feel free to contact Attorney Noah Paul Fardo or Attorney Nicole Hauptman for a free consultation at (412) 802-6666, or email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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