Fitzgerald Wants to Establish 'Base Year' for Property Assessments

Jul 30, 2013

In an effort to ensure steady and predictable revenue from property taxes, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is planning to establish the 2012 property reassessment as a base-year for coming tax years.

He said the recent re-assessment was very costly for county residents.

“It was costly both in the amount of money we spent on doing it, but also in the amount spent by individuals themselves, both public and private dollars,” Fitzgerald said. “It was disruptive to our market, disruptive to investment coming into Allegheny County, and we want to be on the same footing as every other county around us.”

Meaning, Allegheny County wouldn’t have to undergo property reassessments every other year. Fitzgerald said Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland counties all use the base-year system. Some haven’t reassessed in more than 40 years.

“It’s unfair and it hurts the market for our residents, our businesses in Allegheny County to not do it at the same level as our surrounding counties do,” Fitzgerald said.

The base year in Butler County is 1969, and it’s 1973 for Westmoreland County. Fitzgerald said legislation has been taken to County Council to set 2012 as the base year for Allegheny County, so that year will be what all properties built and assessed will be based upon.

“That’s just the system that the state of Pennsylvania has set up,” he said. “Until Pennsylvania changes that system, we’re kind of all going to be on that system, so moving forward people will know that their property taxes are based on their 2012 values.”

The previous base year was 2002. Fitzgerald said he would like to see localities work with state lawmakers on a more uniform property assessment system in the commonwealth, or on tax reform. He said one bill introduced would allow municipalities, counties and school districts to find a different mix of revenue.

“Right now counties only have property tax,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a very regressive and burdensome tax that limits and inhibits investment in construction and other areas in our counties, and I would hope the Legislature would move forward with that.”