Property owners, politicians brace for reassessments

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The property-value reassessment is going to be a disaster, incoming Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told around 100 city residents who gathered today at a public meeting at the Mt. Washington Senior Center.

We're going to do everything we can to protect you from disaster, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl told the same crowd.

Those somewhat mixed messages came at one in a series of informational meetings meant to address fears as notices of new property tax assessments started hitting mailboxes in the city and Mt. Oliver this morning. The county sent the notices under a court order by Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr.

"This assessment is going to be chaotic and it's going to be disastrous," Mr. Fitzgerald said.

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He said he expects the average assessment to rise by about 50 percent.

Mr. Ravenstahl said he's most worried about senior citizens.

"Many of them are going to have severe sticker shock," he said. "They're going to panic. They're not going to know what to do. They're going to think they're going to lose their homes."

He said the city will reduce its tax rates by a combination of a millage decrease and an increase in the homestead property tax exemption to ensure that it doesn't "make a dime off of this process."

"I'm very concerned," said Fran Quinlan, an engineer with a home in the South Side Flats, who attended the meeting. "I figure my taxes might go up three times. So, yeah, it's pretty scary."

She said she will probably appeal.

Mr. Fitzgerald said he's not done fighting the reassessment but provided little clue as to how he might stop a process started by Judge Wettick that has survived appeals up to the state Supreme Court.

He said he will fight not to send out reassessment notices to the suburbs, and has not ruled out trying to decertify the just-certified city property values.

The notices sent out by the county late yesterday provided these instructions on how to appeal:

"Property owners in the City of Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver have until January 13, 2012, to request an informal review by calling 412-350-4600 or going to http://apps.alleghenycounty.us/InformalReviews . Property owners, along with the school and municipality, also have the right to file a 2012 formal appeal with the Board of Property Assessment Appeals & Review until February 10, 2012.

"You may file a 2012 formal appeal by February 10, 2012. You may acquire an appeal form by calling 412-350-4600 or by visiting www.alleghenycounty.us/opa/aforms.aspx ."


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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