Washington County must reassess property, court says

School districts sued to force revaluation

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The state Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an appeal from the Washington County commissioners in a last-ditch effort to prevent property tax reassessments.

"We're very disappointed," said commission Chairman Larry Maggi, who fought for the last five years to prevent the reassessments, estimated to cost the county about $8 million. "We thought we had a good issue to debate before them."

Last month, Mr. Maggi and his fellow commissioners said they would begin seeking vendors for a reassessment, although they still opposed it. Commissioners took the action to prevent themselves from being fined or jailed for disregarding an earlier order by Common Pleas President Judge Debbie O'Dell Seneca to begin the reassessment.

The county was sued five years ago by the McGuffey and Washington school districts to force a reassessment. One hasn't been conducted since 1981.

The school districts assert that the current system is unfair and outdated, but commissioners said they didn't want to burden taxpayers with the reassessment costs, along with higher property tax for some.

During the last several years of legal wrangling, commissioners acknowledged the inequity of the current system, including in a 2008 consent decree signed by Mr. Maggi and the other commissioners.

Lawyer Susan Mondik Key, representing the districts, said commissioners have exhausted their legal options to prevent the reassessment.

"Since there is no other court that the commissioners can appeal to, they must proceed with the reassessment," she said.

Mr. Maggi, however, said he wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet.

"We'll consult with our legal team to figure out our next step," he said.

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Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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