Property Assessments

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner announced that her office will fully examine the property assessment appeals process. A previous audit has already looked at the actual property assessment processes.

“And now, since most of the appeals are wrapped up, we’ll be looking at the appeals process,” said Wagner. “We’ll be analyzing at lots of data, but with this, we also want the involvement of the public.”

What her office is looking for are the personal experiences of those who went through the appeals process.

Last year, the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Reviews ruled on more than 10,000 appeals from property owners, municipalities, and school districts that thought certain homes and businesses were paying too much or not enough in property taxes.

The number of appeals declined from 2013, when many property owners and taxing bodies challenged the 2013 county-wide property reassessment values, according to Eric Montarti, senior policy analyst for the conservative Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.

Somerset County Commissioners have rejected a request from the Shade-Central City School District that could have forced the county to launch a multi-million dollar property reassessment process.

As counties, municipalities and school districts prepare to send tax bills, Allegheny County is reporting a drop in taxable real estate values. Due to assessment appeals, the overall value of land and buildings in the county dropped by 4.8 percent.

There is now a total of a little more than $75 billion in taxable property in the county, versus more than $79 billion last year. But, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that’s not unusual following a reassessment.

Fall property tax collections for the city of Pittsburgh are $3.7 million below projections, according to the second-quarter report published this week by the mayor's finance office.

The millage rate may now need to be raised in order to correct the shortfall, though budget officials say it's too soon to say whether that will be necessary.

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.

Mark Knobil / Flickr

In Allegheny County Homestead tax exemption is a tax break that deducts $85 from every homeowner's property tax bill. It's a useful bit of financial relief for many area homeowners. But residents in Pittsburgh's poorer neighborhoods, where the deduction could be most useful, are not taking advantage of the exemption. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Andrew McGill has reviewed the situation and says, "Amid all the hubbub over re-assessments, I was surprised more people weren't aware of it, and how this lack of awareness is split along income lines."

The Allegheny County Council voted on Tuesday night to nix a few controversial changes that a county governing board had made to the property assessment appeals process.

The Board of Property Assessment and Review (BPAR) had changed its regulations in mid-March to allow only attorneys to represent property owners appealing reassessments, rather than certified appraisers, realtors and other professionals.

Real estate professionals came out in force Tuesday to denounce the BPAR revisions.

A bill that would be the first step in standardizing property reassessments in Pennsylvania passed with unanimous support in both chambers and now awaits Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature.

“This is a step that really modernizes the way data is collected — the way contracts are given out, the way the state interacts with counties when the county decides that it is time to reassess,” said Rep. Brandon Neuman (D-North Strabane)

Allegheny County

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is calling on the Pennsylvania legislature to allow local governments to decide if a landowner deserves to be given property tax breaks as a nonprofit entity.

Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, “purely public charities” are exempt from the payment of property taxes to local municipalities.  An April 2012 decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court enabled local taxing entities to more aggressively challenge tax-exempt status.