County cost-cutter: An office merger saves dollars and makes sense

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Allegheny County’s Office of Property Assessment and its Department of Real Estate are inextricably linked already, so it makes perfect sense to combine them officially.

That’s what county manager William McKain recommended as part of his 300-page review of every county department, agency and function. The switch is more than logical; it’s a cost-cutter, too, with anticipated savings of $250,000 a year.

Currently, the real estate department is responsible for mapping properties, maintaining records of deeds and mortgages and keeping property ownership records. The assessment office provides the property evaluations on which real estate taxes are based. Two sides of the same coin.

The assessment office reports to the county’s administrative services department and, since former real estate manager Valerie McDonald-Roberts left to join Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration earlier this year, administrative services director Jerry Tyskiewicz has been acting head of the real estate section, too.

The switch would be a continuation of the consolidation of former elected row offices that included rolling the former record of deeds office into the real estate division in 2008.

Under the county’s home rule charter, Mr. McKain is obliged to conduct a “sunset review” of county operations every four years. Beyond the real estate department, he also has recommended staggering the process so he would review several departments each year rather than evaluating all of them in a single calendar year. That makes sense, too.

This move doesn’t signal big policy changes, but it is evidence of an approach to governing that is designed to keep operations functioning in an efficient, consumer-friendly way.

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