A new website will allow Allegheny County property owners to estimate their 2013 real estate tax bills under the county's court-ordered property reassessment.
Given a property's address and reassessed value, "PropertyTaxEstimator.Net" calculates next year's tax bill based on projected municipal and county millage rates.
Website creator and Carnegie Mellon University economics professor Robert Strauss said it's meant to be a helpful personal tool and a way to increase transparency in government. He said the website will keep track of whether local officials adhere to Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick's order that local governments receive no additional tax revenue from the reassessment.
"So, the County Council, the borough where you live, the municipality and the school district -- if they want to raise taxes beyond that revenue-neutral millage, the first vote they have to take is to roll back the millage. Then, they have to consider what they want to do next," said Strauss.
Strauss said he'll update the site as he receives the results of 103,000 formal appeals to individual property reassessments, since those decisions will affect the total tax base and therefore local and county millage rates. As it stands, the overall value of Allegheny County property will rise 38 percent from 2012 to 2013.
"There's a lot of concern that that means [property owners'] taxes are going up. In fact, if your assessed value went up less than 38 percent, you're probably going to get a tax cut," said Strauss.
Strauss said he'll be watching the formal appeals of large downtown properties with close attention, since those decisions will carry a lot of weight.
"That's something like 35 or 40 percent of the taxable property base [in Pittsburgh], so if a couple of downtown office buildings are successful in getting their assessments reduced, then that means everybody else's taxes, through a higher tax rate, will occur," said Strauss.
The Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Pittsburgh Charitable Trusts provided funding for "PropertyTaxEstimator.Net".