The ongoing delays and legal issues surrounding Allegheny County's property reassessment process may force the County Treasurer to send out tax bills as late as June next year — four or five months later than usual.
Treasurer John Weinstein said he's waiting on an order from Common Pleas Judge Stanton Wettick before confirming a send-off date for the tax bills, which are normally sent in late January or early February.
"Council would have to change the due dates, commensurate with whatever the judge has to say, because we can't go against a court order," said Weinstein. "So if the judge says, 'The bills have to go out in June,' Council would have to do that."
Weinstein said he hopes the County can still send off the bills in January, so as not to tinker with residents' "internal clocks."
The Clock Ticks On
After several delays, it remains uncertain when the County's reassessment team will finish its work. All reassesments must be completed before new values can be used in the 2012 tax bills.
In September, reassessment chief Wesley Graham said he expects to be finished by late December of this year. More time would then be spent allowing property owners to appeal the reassessed values of their parcels.
Graham's estimate caused a stir among municipal and school district leaders, who expected an earlier finish. Some complained that the resulting delay in billing would interfere with their mid-February budgeting processes. Judge Wettick assured them that the County would provide local governments with "aggregate" property values in January, to help them estimate their new property tax revenues.
Will Your Tax Bill be Higher, Lower, or the Same?
Democratic County Executive candidate Rich Fitzgerald said if he's elected, he'll use the 2002 base-year property values when determining tax bills for 2012 — defying the court-ordered reassessment. But Weinstein said that's not up to Fitzgerald, or himself.
"Council would actually have to vote on that," said Weinstein, "and the Executive could work with Council on that issue. We will send out whatever numbers they send over to us."
"I would love to send out lower bills, lower assessed values," said Weinstein. "If the County's not ready, that's what we're going to have to do."