The long-awaited and much-dreaded notices of Allegheny County property assessments were mailed last Thursday and Friday to North Hills property owners.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald will visit each county council district to discuss the court-ordered reassessment with residents. No meetings have been scheduled yet for Districts 1, 2 or 3 -- the ones encompassing the North Hills.
Meetings will cover filing and preparing for informal reviews and formal appeals. County staff will help file forms, and legal and real estate professionals will provide free advice.
"The last time we went through [countywide reassessment], in 2001-2002, people were upset because of the mistakes that were made," county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said at a recent meeting in McKeesport.
Mistakes also have been made during the current property analysis, he said, with assessments in some of the poorest communities going up by 75 percent.
The county wants to give taxpayers the information they need to appeal, said Mr. Fitzgerald, who opposed the 2012 court-ordered reassessment.
The new property values won't go into effect until 2013, which gives property owners about a year to resolve issues with their new values, said educator Melinda Freed, who explained the appeals process for the county.
An informal review is a one-on-one meeting with a representative of the Office of Property Assessment. After an informal review, taxpayers will receive a notice of findings from that hearing, said Amie Downs, Allegheny County communications director. If they disagree with the findings, they will have 30 days to file a formal appeal, which will be addressed in a hearing before the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review.
The deadline for formal appeals is April 2 throughout the county.
Taxpayers also may schedule appeals at the Kane regional centers -- 100 Ninth St., McKeesport; 955 Rivermont Drive, Hazelwood; 300 Kane Blvd., Scott; and 110 McIntyre Road, Ross.
Assessment information is available online at www.alleghenycounty.us/courtreassess.aspx.
The website lets computer users view the new 2013 property values and values of properties used as comparables; download formal appeal forms; schedule informal reviews; and submit corrections to property characteristics that were incorrect in notices.
Ms. Downs said taxpayers can correct information about the number of bedrooms, square footage and more online, but they cannot argue to change their market values. To make corrections, they may call 412-350-4600 between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; submit them online; or make them in person at an informal review.
The site also answers a list of frequently asked questions.
Ms. Freed offered taxpayers advice on determining whether to appeal the reassessment value:
First, make sure information in the notices is correct, including lot size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and number of stories.
One couple in the audience said their notice listed the wrong number of stories for their house, and Ms. Freed said her own property information was incorrect.
Second, ask themselves if they could sell their homes for the market values listed on the notice.
Third, ask themselves if they are being treated equally by comparing their properties to similar homes on the county website.
Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org .