Bill would give heft to property appraisals

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Allegheny County Council may consider strengthening residents' hands in property assessment appeal hearings, which opponents have painted as inconsistent at best.

Council member Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, submitted legislation for review Tuesday that would require the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review to accept a homeowner's certified appraisal as the value of their property if no other evidence is presented.

Her bill follows a lawsuit against the county from 11 property owners who say their appraisals were ignored in their assessment appeals, even though no meaningful evidence was offered by their school district or municipality against them. Common Pleas Court Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. ruled against them, but an appeal is possible.

Ms. Heidelbaugh sympathized with the residents, saying the county had advised homeowners to get private appraisals without realizing hearing officers would ignore them. Her measure would even the playing field, she said.

"It's designed to give certainty in the process," she said.

On the same evening, council voted to re-open assessment appeals, allowing property owners another chance to challenge their assessment before 2014. Ms. Heidelbaugh voted no, noting the measure also would allow school districts and townships a second shot to try to increase assessments. William Robinson, D-Hill District, also voted no.

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