Mt. Lebanon to hold meeting for property owners whose assessments are being appealed

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Mt. Lebanon commissioners plan to organize a meeting to help a segment of property owners resolve issues regarding property assessment appeals.

Residents packed Tuesday’s commission meeting, many attending to express their opposition to what they are calling a “newcomers’ tax” affecting certain properties.

Last year, the municipality filed appeals of Allegheny County assessments for 150 residential properties sold during 2011 and 2012 that have a significant difference between sale price and assessed value. In March, commissioners approved a similar measure for properties sold between 2006 and 2010 and in 2013.

Commissioners said they hope to bring affected residents together with a representative from Diversified Municipal Services Inc. of McCandless, the firm that represents the municipality in filing appeals. The meeting’s format has yet to be determined.

Diversified had been authorized by commissioners to negotiate settlements with property owners, but some residents said they were unable to do so when they contacted the company.

The new assessment figures have resulted in higher tax payments for nearly 150 property owners in the first group that was subject to the appeals. Among them is Jeffrey Heiskell of Vee Lynn Drive, who told commissioners that he and his wife, Brittany, did a budget analysis of what they could afford prior to purchasing their home in 2011.

“Never did we imagine that our taxes would be increased by approximately 30 percent,” he said. “We must now decide whether or not Mt. Lebanon is the place for us to raise a family.”

Robert Garrity purchased his Lebanon Hills Drive home in 2011, the ninth place in which he has lived in the past 40 years and third in Mt. Lebanon.

“Only one of these homes has been assessed at 100 percent of the sale price,” he gold commissioners, saying his situation is dissuading a son and daughter from moving to the municipality. “I ask that you consider the impact on the community.”

He was among several residents who asked that commissioners put an end to the appeals process.

“Abandon the program now,” said Gregory Bank of Firwood Drive. “The fairest means of assessment is through the assessment process, not through targeted appeals. Fair is not catapulting our assessments beyond our neighbors.’ ”

Commissioners said they pursued the appeals in an effort toward fairness after other residents complained that their properties were assessed too high as a result of Allegheny County’s 2013 reassessment.

“Each of them said to us, what about all the underassessed homes in the community?” said Kristen Linfante, board president. “We decided that we would look at underassessed homes.”

Harry Funk, freelance writer:

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