Bill Rogel lobs the questions and Nicole Hauptman Amick fires back with answers to:
• What's the latest news on the CLR?
• How bad is the backlog of hearings?
• How long should property owners expect to wait for a hearing?
• How many appeals are schools filing this year?
• And finally, the question we've all been wanting to know...why male models?
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Please rise. Court is now in session.
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I strenuously object. A legal podcast brought to you by the Pittsburgh law from a Flaherty Fardo is now in session.
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All those seeking information about the law and legal matters affecting the people of Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, half-baked opinions, and a dose of self-indulgence are invited to attend and participate.
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I want the truth! You can't handle the truth!
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The defense strenuously objects.
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Call the first witness.
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Welcome to I Strenuously Object. Today's quick shot episode is an Allegheny County tax assessment update and also our introduction of a new interview segment, Answer Me These Questions 3.
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You know, as in, who would cross the bridge of death must answer me these questions three?
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The other side, he see.
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So today I'm going to pepper partner Nicole Amick with some loosely enumerated questions to seek out the latest information on the CLR and the current state of the step ratio in Allegheny County.
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What's happening with the assessment backlog and how long the wait times should be for people with, you know, waiting for hearings or people who had hearings already and are wondering when they're getting a result.
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So now without further ado, let's let's get into the five questions.
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Three questions. Three questions. He who answers the five questions. Three questions. Three questions. Play cross in safety.
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Three questions. We're going to bring in the queen of tax appeals herself, Nicole Amick.
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Good morning. I'm glad that that nickname continues to follow me here.
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No more so than is merited, Nicole, I promise.
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So we're going to get right into it here. Question the first.
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Ask me the questions, Bridgekeeper. I'm not afraid.
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What's going on with the CLR for for last year for 2022?
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Great question, Bill. So there was just an order of court from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, actually on a separate case from the one that was just heard for argument earlier this month.
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But basically what the court did was they came back and said, look, basically, this is a mess.
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What we're asking, uh, STAB, the state tax equalization board to do, because that is their job.
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We're asking them to recalculate the STAB ratio for 2022.
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So instead of this judge created order, instead of all this fighting back and forth about values, we're asking STAB to look at the information and come up with a value for 2022,
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which should hopefully give some clarification as to, you know, what we're going to use as the ratio for 2022 and put the matter to bed, so to speak.
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Right. Off you go. That's easy.
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So the calculation by STAB, this is essentially an arithmetic problem, correct?
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Correct. The whole the whole beginning of this fight was about the information that the county was giving to STAB to calculate the ratio.
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They basically said, uh, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said, county, you are not giving accurate sales information to STAB for them to accurately calculate the ratio.
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And because of that, the ratio is artificially high. The court found that to be the case.
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And that's kind of what the crux of the entire problem was to begin with.
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So when STAB gets these numbers to recalculate 2022, presumably they'll be getting the correct information to do so.
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And that should, I would imagine, lead to some type of lower value for 2022 than the original value they gave, which was 81.1 percent.
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So you had mentioned two cases, and just so the listeners understand the situation here, and correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm not entirely sure I've got it right either.
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But there are two different cases that both ended up in front of the Commonwealth Court.
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One of them is an appeal from the Court of Common Pleas. That's the one where Judge Hertzberg entered the order, setting the STAB ratio at what was the number?
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Well, it was setting the CLR at that figure, but also had an order saying that STAB should finalize and calculate this.
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And that Commonwealth Court case just had oral argument in front of the court, you know, three weeks ago or whatever it was, right?
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There is a second case, and that's the case you're talking about now, where there was an appeal, I guess, from some administrative action with STAB, where it went directly from the State Tax Equalization Board, an agency of the government,
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directly to the Commonwealth Court without stopping over by a Court of Common Pleas or a judge.
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And that was asking STAB to do the calculation separately and apart from the order from Judge Hertzberg in Allegheny County.
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Correct. Basically, both of the cases were running in tandem.
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I'm kind of surprised that the other case, the one that we haven't all been talking about for years, is the one that's going to kind of hopefully solve this entire problem.
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But at the end of the day, kind of everyone was asking for the same thing, which was for STAB to come back and do its function and recalculate for 2022.
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At some point in the past, they did offer to do that, and there was so much fighting between the lawyers that that just never happened.
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And I believe they just kind of said, fine, you know, we're washing our hands of this.
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You guys fight it out in court and that's it.
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But now the court has come back in and said, no, STAB, we're now telling you, you have to do this.
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You have 30 days to recalculate the 2022 ratio.
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And that's now what we're going to be waiting for.
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And now if the state tax equalization board, and I guess it's theoretical they could try to appeal to the Supreme Court.
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I don't know that anyone's going to do that.
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But if the state tax equalization board issues a new number, my sense in supposition is that should make the other case, the appeal from Judge Hertzberg's order, moot or irrelevant at this point, because the state will have set the figure and there's no reason to fight over the figure that Judge Hertzberg put in place last year.
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That would be my guess. But with everything with this lawsuit and how everything's gone, who knows?
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I would think so. And hopefully for a lot of reasons, this gives us some clarity to just kind of move on, to give us a number and then move on, because we're still waiting for thousands of decisions for last year.
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And we're now getting hearing scheduled this year as well.
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So as this continues to drag on, it's just kind of delaying many, many cases and kind of creating this quagmire of just like a stopped process.
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So hopefully this should give us some clarity and we can all move forward from here.
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Can you give us an update on what's going on with the previously filed appeals and the backlog of scheduled hearings?
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So for appeals that were filed last year, so appeals that were actually filed in 2022, the majority of those cases have been heard, though not all of them.
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But the majority of those cases have been heard. And the only decisions that they've sent out for anything that happened last year are cases in which they were sustaining the value.
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So basically saying school district, you didn't meet your burden of proof, we're sustaining the value, because then they're not applying any ratio. It's just saying you lose basically.
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And that's been a very small number of the cases. I want to say like 500.
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The rest of the thousands of cases where they still need to consider the evidence and then apply the ratio, presumably, we're still waiting.
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We're just kind of sitting here waiting for this ratio issue to play out in the courts as we have been for a year.
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So all of those are just kind of sitting there. And now we're at the end of April in 2023.
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So, you know, by the time we hopefully get some clarification on the ratio and get these decisions, we'll be halfway through this year. If not later, it's just been delaying everything.
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All these property owners that get increases are going to get additional bills for last year.
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So there's a lot of anger that's going to come about all this when all this stuff finally shakes out. I think the sooner the better will help everybody.
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But all of those were just waiting on. And hopefully, again, this this court case that was just we just got the order on gives us some clarification here soon.
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Question three related to question two, if I'm a property owner who had a hearing last year for a tax appeal last year, how long should I be expected to keep waiting?
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Good question. People ask me that every day.
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Number one, we're waiting for clarification on the ratio that's actually going to apply to these cases. And then number two, even when we have that clarification, B par has already said we're not just like sitting there with a stack of decisions saying here's the number, apply the ratio, mail them all out right now.
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They've basically said, don't expect all the decisions to just be sent out as soon as we have that clarification. What that means in practice, I don't know.
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In a typical year, it can take a long time to get decisions anyway. So I still imagine even when we have clarification on the ratio, all the decisions aren't going to just be released like the next day.
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It's going to take over time batches of decisions, I'm guessing. So hopefully by the end of the year is what I've been telling people.
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Hopefully, by the end of the year, we have all these decisions, hopefully sooner than that. But I think that's kind of the only real benchmark I'm comfortable giving right now.
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Can't you just wave your royal scepter or issue some sort of edict from your throne on high?
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People keep asking me and I'm like, I can't do anything. I have no control over what B par does. Trust me. I don't like sitting here waiting for all these decisions either.
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But yeah, that's kind of where we are. Now, everyone has 30 days to file an appeal of that decision, obviously, when it's received, regardless of when they get it.
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And any appeal that gets filed for a 2022 decision, even though we're in 2023, is obviously going to preserve your right to challenge that year as well.
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So I think we're going to have a lot of appeals down the road here that involve multiple tax years at the end of the day.
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All right, we're going to shift gears a little in question four and focus on the 2023 tax year.
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There's been some prior. This is a prologue to the question.
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We have previously gone on on these these airwaves or whatever you call them in podcast land and told people that this year, 2023 was perhaps the best year ever for them to file tax appeals.
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The time for owners to file their appeals has come and gone. My question now is the normal process in prior years, in most years.
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Normally, what happens is people buy a house. The school district sees how much they paid for their house and the school district appeals.
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With this year being a little bit weird as far as what the CLR is and what the sale prices are, my question is how many appeals are the schools filing this year?
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The appeals have cut down. I want to say they're about half of what was filed last year.
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An interesting thing that some of the school districts have done is they have actually gone back and appealed 2022 as well.
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So property owners who normally would only be dealing with a 2023 appeal because the appeal period after which they bought the house was only open for that year are now dealing with a multiple year appeal, some of whom owned the property for a very short period of 2022.
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So that's kind of the other side of this litigation that's not helping property owners because I was just talking to someone yesterday that bought December 27, 2022.
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They are dealing with both a 2022 and 2023 appeal even though they only owned the property for five days of 2022.
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So that's kind of the other side of that. But certainly there were less appeals filed than normally and in reviewing a lot of potential cases in many situations the increases being sought are less than what they have been in past years, obviously just because the ratio was lower now.
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So I think the implications generally from these appeals will be less than what they have been. But again, we're now dealing on the flip side of that with people that are fighting multiple tax year appeals for certain time periods they didn't even own the property. So good and bad.
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I think all of us expected some decrease in the number of appeals that were filed this year. To me the number being about half of what it had been is actually more school appeals than I would have anticipated given what the CLR is for this year and what we expect it to be for last year.
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I agree. But again, I think because I've been talking to a lot of people, obviously reviewing potential cases, I've been turning away a lot of people because the increases being sought are relatively small.
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So, you know, I try to give people a pretty honest cost benefit of hiring a lawyer and looking at what the increases are going to be. So in past years where I would often look at cases for relatively small houses, they're looking at $3,000, $5,000 a year in tax increases.
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So it's $500, $700, a relatively small amount at the end of the day. So I think the actual net profit from the appeals for the school districts has gone down. I think they're trying to file as many appeals as they can though for that reason.
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Fifth and final question before we let the queen off the hook here. What's your favorite Will Ferrell movie?
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See, I thought you were going to ask me about the Bill's draft pick last night. So I was doing some research this morning.
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They did go tight end. It was pretty surprising. But anyway, my favorite Will Ferrell movie. God, that's a really hard question.
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I found myself in a bit of a Will Ferrell YouTube SNL old skit black hole recently, which is a fun black hole to be in.
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Bruce Dickinson wants more cowbell. We should probably give him more cowbell.
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It just depends on your mood, right? Like Elf is your favorite Will Ferrell movie in the Christmas time.
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I love you. I love you. I love you.
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Gotta love step brothers, Anchorman. I mean, that's tough, Bill. I don't know. I can't pick one. It's like picking your favorite kid.
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I love all my children. Yeah, exactly.
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I mean, which which which for the record with with my body type is how I typically answer what my favorite food is. I love all my children.
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There you go. Yeah, I can't pick one, Bill. That's a good question, though. I'm going to think about that. Maybe next time I'm on, I can give you a concrete answer.
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All right. We'll have a follow up. But I do then have one bonus question for you. Why male models?
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So why male models? Male models were genetically constructed to become assassins.
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I say that all the time when my kids answer me with some ridiculous answer and I just look at my husband and say, but why male models?
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That's another one. Zoolander. I mean, gosh, you're bringing them up. I got to really think about this question. Such a good movie.
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I was just saying I want to watch all the landers the worst. Top five of my favorite movies of all time.
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I was sure that Zoolander was going to be your answer. Well, I could talk about how much I hate it.
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I just sent a gift to my friend of Will Ferrell's character when he's dressed up like Little Bo Peep saying relax.
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And I just send it to my friend who is like in a stressful time. And I was like, this is the funniest gift I can think to send you right now.
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And that will do it for today's episode of I strenuously object.
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If you have any feedback for the podcast, any any questions about the tax appeal process or anything else, one visit the website.
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That's PGH firm dot com, which is the website for your humble law firm of Flaherty, Fardo, Rogel and Amick.
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You can email the podcast at I object at PGH firm dot com.
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We are on Instagram. That's I strenuously object podcast.
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And until next time, some parting advice. Welcome to your relaxation time.
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Let this wonderful 80s classic soothe you.
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Just a nice, warm, happy time. Nothing to worry about at all.
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