Property reassessment effort called on track

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All formal residential property assessments should be completed by Nov. 2, Allegheny County's chief assessment officer said Wednesday.

That puts the county on track to meet the Dec. 17 deadline to provide school districts and municipalities with a revised list of new property values. The reassessments will replace 2002 base-year numbers in calculating 2013 real-estate taxes.

Chief assessment officer Wesley Graham told Common Pleas Senior Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. that appeals of commercial properties in Pittsburgh and Mount Oliver also would be done by the target date. Mount Oliver is part of the city school district.

Many of the challenges to reassessments for commercial properties outside the city, however, won't be heard until next year, Mr. Graham said.

Judge Wettick, who is overseeing reassessment under the direction of the state Supreme Court, set the December deadline. He met Wednesday for a status conference with lawyers for the county and for residents who filed lawsuits to force revaluation of all real estate.

Of the 92,682 formal appeals filed by homeowners, 74,197 or 80 percent have been scheduled, Mr. Graham said. For the city and Mount Oliver, it's 83 percent. Of the 15,067 commercial appeals filed, only 6,228, or 41 percent, have been scheduled.

Don Driscoll, a lawyer for the Community Justice Project, which sued the county to force reassessment, has asked the judge to order the county to adjust the results to "eliminate statistically significant regressivity among residential properties." That "regressivity" means residents in poorer communities would continue to pay a disproportionate share of property taxes, Mr. Driscoll wrote in a court filing.

The state Supreme Court had ordered reassessment after concluding many homes in less-affluent communities had become relatively overvalued over time.

County reassessment met both Supreme Court and International Association of Assessing Officers standards, county solicitor Andrew Szefi said.

Judge Wettick gave Mr. Szefi 10 days to respond in writing to Mr. Driscoll's arguments.

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Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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