Judge Denies Request to Lower Assessments
What this decision means for property owners after the Allegheny County assessment
Judge R. Stanton Wettick has denied a request to automatically lower hundreds of thousands of property assessments in poorer neighborhoods. Attorney Don Driscoll argued that a recent independent study demonstrated that poorer neighborhoods were paying more than their fair share after the Allegheny County assessment. The motion was denied because the court determined that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not intend to allow the court to consider the “fairness of the assessments”, only the procedure for conducting it. The court wrote: “It does not provide for judicial oversight with respect to issues regarding the fairness of a reassessment.”
Mr. Driscoll -- the attorney who initiated the Allegheny County assessment through a lawsuit -- now argued that the new Allegheny County assessment values should be revised, because approximately 300,000 properties in the area are overassessed as a result of the new Allegheny County assessment values, and properties in low-income areas were erroneously given higher percentage increases than homes in wealthier communities.
The county argued that although these new values are not perfect, “The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that taxation is not a matter of exact science and that absolute equality or perfect uniformity is not necessary to satisfy the constitutional requirements of uniformity and equal protection.” They then noted that the appeals process will continue year after year, so these Allegheny County assessment values will always be shifting.
Allegheny County is currently under a Court Order to calculate the new total value for real estate assessments by December 17, 2012. School and local taxing entities need this information to calculate their millage rates for 2013. The county is currently in the process of proposing its 2013 budget and should have a tentative 2013 millage rate by the end of the year.
As the impact of this ongoing litigation looms, the Office of Property Assessments continues to hear up to one thousand appeals every day in an attempt to complete the appeals process by the end of the year. Though the majority of appeals have already been heard, there are still approximately 15,000 appeals that have not been heard at this point. Appeal hearings will be scheduled through the end of the year, and the likelihood that the Office of Property Assessments will be able to complete all decisions by the end of the year is extremely small
Property owners who have already attended hearings should expect to receive the decision from this appeal in approximately 2-3 months. Property owners who are dissatisfied with this decision have thirty days from the “Mailing Date” listed on this decision to file an appeal to the Board of Viewers.
If you have any additional questions about property assessments, or would like a free consultation about your property appeal case, please feel free to contact us.