For ten years current Allegheny County executive, Dan Onorato has taken the position, the rather popular position, that the public favors fighting property assessments. To his credit, the mainstream media, as well as the public at large believe that to be the case. However, we all know that it is not just the assessments, but also the millage rates that determine property taxes. And if we had accurate assessments more fairly divided, all of our property taxes may actually be lower.

In fighting new assessments at all costs, the current county executive and, for that matter, the current county executive candidates are all ignoring one rather glaring fault with the system. The fact that nearly one-third of the county, if not more, is currently improperly assessed. That is why in part, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in a recent case, Clifton v. Allegheny County, held that the current base year system is unconstitutional.

The biggest problem going forward is that we have two county executive candidates, one Raja, and the other, Rich Fitzgerald, who have both taken the position that they intend to stymie or attempt to stop the oncoming train of the new assessments. They have both adopted Dan Onorato’s position. They believe it is politically expedient to appear to the public that they are fighting property assessments because they go hand-in-hand with supposedly fighting property taxes. Again, nothing could be further from the truth.

At this point, what the public should be looking for, the tax payers in particular, is leadership, not just good political talking points. The residents of Allegheny County deserve a leader who is willing to fix the assessment mess and quite simply, make it fair.

It is our understanding that right now the majority, if not all, of the property assessments are completed and somewhere in the basement or in the archives of the Allegheny County Court House. They are sitting there waiting to be certified and then released to the property owners. We also have the understanding that both commercial and residential properties are currently assessed with incredibly poor and inaccurate numbers.

Where does that leave the property owner going forward?

Well in actuality, we should be demanding good government. That is, one of the two candidates seeking the county executive office should be stepping forward as a leader. Rather than showing what has been popular in the past, take a leadership role going forward by explaining to the public that the current system unfairly taxes lower income neighborhoods and punishes those areas which have declined in value. What leader would allow that happen?

We should be demanding the release of the information which the county has. We should be insisting that the assessments be released in a timely fashion to each and every property owner/taxpayer. At that the same time the county should be taking extreme measures to ensure that once those numbers are released and open to the public that the informal assessment process is run expediently.

Neither county executive candidate, Fitzgerald or Raja, at this time is indicating that they will be putting on more staff to handle what we anticipate will be a flux of over 150,000 assessment appeals. The idea that they are going to stop the new assessments is childish, immature, and foolish. The county needs to step up, take accountability, and accept responsibility for the current debacle and finally fix the assessment mess in Allegheny County. To continue delay, harms us all.


If you have additional questions about the 2012 Reassessment in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, please contact attorneys Noah Paul Fardo or Shawn T. Flaherty at 412.802.6666.

Read more about Allegheny County property assessment appeals.

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