This article will provide readers with the latest updates from both the Washington and Allegheny County assessment of property taxes. Specifically, the latest news
Each topic is discussed below.
Washington County has not reassessed its 118,000 properties since 1981. Five years ago, various school districts sued Washington County, arguing that the outdated property assessment system was resulting in significant disparity between the districts. Through the county fought against the reassessment, Washington County was ultimately ordered to conduct a county-wide reassessment, similar to what has happened in the Allegheny County assessment.
Washington County has hired Tyler Technologies to complete the reassessment for a cost of approximately $6.9 million. This is the same company that was used in the Allegheny County assessment. The new values are currently scheduled to be released by January 2016.
Assessors began the process of visiting every property in the county this past week. Due to the length of time that has passed since the last reassessment, Washington County officials are already bracing property owners for what they believe will be “sticker shock” when receiving new values. The new values will reflect the current fair market value of the properties.
In trying to learn from the problems experienced during the Allegheny County assessment -- with more than 100,000 property owners challenging their Allegheny County assessment values -- Washington County has instituted a modified appeals process. Property owners will actually be able to review the raw property data as it is being collected.
Additionally, property owners will receive a “tentative assessment” value months before the final value is actually released. Upon receipt of this tentative value, property owners will be able to speak directly with a representative of Tyler Technologies, at which point the assessors will be given authority to change the assessment value. If the property owner is not satisfied at this point, they will be able to file a formal appeal to the county tax appeal board.
Washington County officials hope that this will decrease the amount of appeals filed, and also help to facilitate a more efficient transition to these new values. Whether or not this modified appeals system will work in practice will not be known until it is utilized in 2015.
The Office of Property Assessments is in the process of finishing the scheduling for any first level hearings involving back tax years and any remaining 2013 Allegheny County assessment appeals. Residential appeals are currently being heard Monday through Thursday, with all commercial properties being scheduled for hearings on Fridays. The Office of Property Assessments remains confident that all of these appeal hearings will be scheduled by the end of the year, though not all decisions are likely to be sent out before 2014.
There are also still thousands of appeals pending at the Board of Viewers, the second level of the Allegheny County assessment appeals process. These hearings often take 12-18 months to schedule, and often involve more than one tax year by the time they are heard.
At the same time, property owners are still continuing to file motions directly to Judge Wettick, requesting that the court allow them to file a late 2013 Allegheny County assessment property appeal. These requests are no longer automatically granted, especially as many school district and municipality representatives now challenge these motions.
One impact of the Allegheny County assessment property appeals that has not been discussed or realized yet is the shifting tax burden that will result from all of these revised Allegheny County assessment values.
When the taxing entities decide on a millage rate prior to their tax year, they are using the Allegheny County assessment values available at that time to determine the millage rates. As these values shift following appeal hearings, the tax base in the Allegheny County taxing districts also changes. If significant reductions or increases occur within a taxing entity, the actual millage rate would likely increase or decrease next year to help keep the taxes consistent from year to year.
It is impossible to know what these finals tax implications will be until all of the 2013 Allegheny County assessment appeals are decided. With thousands of appeals still pending at both levels of the appeals process, these tax bases could still change significantly between 2013, 2014 and even 2015.
If you have any additional questions about property assessments in Allegheny County, or any other county in Pennsylvania, or you would like a free consultation for your tax appeal case, please feel free to contact us.