Assessment appeals pay off for many Allegheny County homeowners

Nearly half of homeowner challenges saw average reduction of $20,695

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About half of Allegheny County homeowners who challenged their new property assessments saw those property values reduced.

Those who made successful informal appeals received an average reduction of $20,695, according to statistics from the county Office of Property Assessments.

The county numbers show that 47 percent of 59,143 residential property owners who filed informal appeals won assessment reductions.

About 2.8 percent of homeowners saw their assessments rise following informal appeals. Those values rose an average of $15,888.

The final 50 percent of residential property owners saw no change in their assessments.

Owners of commercial properties did even better in making their cases for lower assessed values.

Their appeals reduced values on 70 percent of the 5,357 commercial properties that were challenged. The average decrease there was $292,898.

Another 2.8 percent of commercial property owners received bad news. They saw their assessed values rise an average of $322,302.

About 27 percent of commercial property owners saw no change in their assessed value.

A total of 69,277 property owners requested informal appeals, but 4,777 -- about 7 percent -- cancelled or didn't show up for their sessions.

This week the property assessments office is mailing out the last of the results from the informal appeals.

The overall effect of informal appeals will be to reduce the assessed value of all property in the county by $1.6 billion. That number represents less than 2 percent of the $86.9 billion aggregate value assigned to all taxable real estate following reassessment.

More than 100,000 people have filed formal appeals, which will offer a second opportunity to challenge the accuracy of updated property values. Some of those formal appeals, however, are likely to be dropped now that the results of the informal hearings are known.

Municipalities, school districts and the county itself will use the new property values to calculate property taxes starting Jan. 1. The updated assessments will replace 2002 "base-year" values that have been used for a decade.

While the last informal hearings were completed June 1, approval of any changes in new assessments was a two-step process.

Recommendations from hearing officers were sent to the Office of Property Assessments, which faced a July 31 deadline to review and forward changes. Final authority to make adjustments rested with the quasi-independent Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review, which took final action on Thursday.

Appeals board approval was needed because the new assessments were "certified" values. A more common procedure following reassessment is for property owners to receive notice of proposed changes and then have an opportunity to challenge their accuracy through informal appeals. Those informal appeals would have acted as a final check on the accuracy of the reassessment, county officials said.

Facing a deadline for getting new property values into the hands of taxing bodies in time for their use next year, the judge overseeing the reassessment instructed the county to send out certified numbers.

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Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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