Judge grants late appeals on Allegheny County property assessments

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About 400 Allegheny County property owners who went to court Tuesday expecting to have to make a case for being allowed to file a late property assessment appeal got a surprise.

Common Pleas Senior Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. granted all of the requests when the county decided not to contest the appeals.

As a result, those who showed up Thursday should receive a notice within two weeks with the date for their assessment appeal.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs said county Executive Rich Fitzgerald has opposed the new assessments and saw no reason to block late appeals. Mr. Fitzgerald believes the court-ordered reassessments are unfair because other counties have not reassessed in decades and he's trying to get the state Legislature to establish a statewide assessment system.

"We have also advocated from the very beginning that taxpayers should do everything they can to protect themselves from these court-ordered reassessments, whether it is filing a late appeal or anything else," she said.

Attorney Clifford Tuttle Jr. said his clients were out of town and had sold one house and bought another. They weren't aware of the new assessment until after the April 2 deadline for filing an appeal.

"The solicitor decided not to contest these, so they will get their appeal," he said.

Ryan Fair of Beechview said "family issues" kept him from filing a timely appeal for his home on Pauline Avenue. He said he was pleased he will get a chance to present his case to the appeals board because his land value tripled under the new assessment.

"I don't think it was accurate because my backyard goes up a hill and there's no way to build on it," he said. "I just don't think that's fair."

Shawn Blanton said he always intended to appeal the assessment on the home he built 11 years ago in Franklin Park, but the appeal was postmarked one day too late. He said the assessed value of the home went up about 33 percent.

"To do this all in one year -- I will do what I can to fight it," he said. "This abrupt change is something that is hard to take rather than an increase a little at a time."

Judge Wettick has ordered the county to finish hearing appeals by the end of the year so the new values can be used by the county, school districts and municipalities as they plan their 2013 budgets.

region - electionsmunicipal

Ed Blazina: eblazina@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1470.


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