Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick has sent a memo to Allegheny County officials ordering that reassessment of properties in the city of Pittsburgh must be completed before those in other municipalities in the county. Allegheny County is under a court order from Wettick to reset the values on properties for the 2012 taxes, but county officials say they are three months behind in the process. The county has not performed a new property assessment since 2002. County Executive Dan Onorato has fought the reassessment order, claiming it's unfair because neighboring counties have not established new values on properties either.
Judge Wettick said unless the reassessment is completed first in Pittsburgh, the city and the school district might face $2 million in borrowing costs. That's because the city and the Pittsburgh School District send out tax forms early in the new year to begin collecting taxes. Wettick said if the new assessments aren't ready by then, the city and school district would have to borrow money to pay employees and bills.
"We just want to make sure it's done in a fair way, that everybody is treated equally," said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. "Whether the city goes first or not, reassessment has to be done properly and our residents need to be treated in a way where their taxes don't go through the roof."
Judge Wettick has set a meeting Thursday with all affected parties to consider two options for completing the city of Pittsburgh's reassessment first. Under the first proposal, the new values would be set by the county for properties in the city and Mount Oliver by January 6 and by April 6 for all other communities. The informal review process would be dropped, but only for Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver. The second option would have the property values certified in Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver by January 27 and for the remainder of the county by May 18. The informal review process would be kept under this proposal.
"I know it's a difficult issue on many fronts, " said Ravenstahl. "But the city will be represented at the table and we'll make our voice heard if and when it's necessary."