Allegheny County's Office of Property Assessment should undertake a parcel-by-parcel review of real-estate tax exemptions claimed by charitable and non-profit organizations, Controller Chelsa Wagner urged today.
That recommendation was included in an audit of the office, known by the acronym OPA.
"OPA does not provide proper accountability or review [of] tax exemptions for charitable and non-profit organizations to assure taxpayers that exemptions are warranted," Ms. Wagner said in a statement. "OPA should provide at least the same level of scrutiny for charitable tax exemptions as it does for better-administered property tax relief programs for individual homeowners."
Jerry Tyskiewicz, whose Department of Administrative Services oversees the assessment office, said a non-profit review had been planned for this year before the controller undertook her audit.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and county Manager William McKain already were aware of many of the issues raised by the controller, Mr. Tyskiewicz wrote in a response letter. "Many of those items dovetail with the information in your analysis," he said. "I appreciate the confirmation."
The Office of Property Assessment has been at the center of the court-ordered $15 million revaluation of every property in the county. That controversial project has resulted in more than 100,000 appeals of new assessments that have gone into effect for this year.
Reassessment also has raised questions among county council members and residents about the high proportion of tax-exempt properties in many communities, especially Pittsburgh.
In November county Executive Rich Fitzgerald fired Michael Suley, the manager of the assessment office. County spokeswoman Amie Downs said Mr. Fitzgerald wanted a change in leadership and direction for the office.
Len Barcousky: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1159.