Allegheny County property assessment board to fill vacancies
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Allegheny County judges will meet at noon today to fill two vacancies on the board that hears appeals of real estate assessments.
The county's 43 Court of Common Pleas nonsenior jurists will select from among 11 candidates seeking to sit on the seven-member Board of Viewers. A seat on the board is a part-time position that pays $60,000 a year.
The current vacancies opened up as the result of a death and a resignation.
Longtime member William "Bill" McGrady died June 8. Mr. McGrady, 75, had been a board member for 34 years. He lived in Overbrook.
The state Senate confirmed board member Paul Cozza as a county judge on June 30, opening the second seat on the Board of Viewers. Mr. Cozza, a lawyer who lives in Baldwin Township, had served on the board since November 2009.
Members of the Board of Viewers include both attorneys and lay people, according to Michelle Lally, administrative chair for the agency. "We've always had a mix of lawyer and nonlawyer members," she said.
Selection of board members rests with the county judges. Claire Capristo, chief deputy court administrator, confirmed that 11 candidates -- both lawyers and lay people -- had applied to fill the two vacancies.
Ms. Capristo declined to identify any of the hopefuls. "We don't talk about candidates for any court jobs," she said.
Judges will vote via secret ballot. A successful candidate must receive a majority of votes to win, a process that is likely to require multiple rounds of balloting.
In addition to hearing appeals from decisions by the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review, the Board of Viewers also handles eminent domain cases in which private property can be taken for a public purpose.
Three "masters" hear those cases and at least one must be a lawyer, Ms. Lally said. Real estate appeals ordinarily are presented to one or two hearing officers and neither needs to be an attorney.
Of the five "masters" now serving on the board, three are lawyers: Ms. Lally, J. Michele Zappala Peck and Mary D. Colville. The lay members are Barbara Utterback and Carmen DeChellis.
Real estate broker Gene Sheck confirmed that he was one of the people seeking appointment to the board. He had served in a similar position when the county operated under the three-commissioner form of government. "This job needs someone who is skilled in doing valuations of property," he said, pointing to his experience as a real estate professional.
Board members hear second-level challenges from either property owners or taxing bodies -- most often school districts -- who are unsatisfied with the results from their formal appeals.
The Board of Viewers is a separate agency from both the county Office of Property Assessments, which certifies property values and oversees informal challenges, and the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review, which decides formal appeals.
More than 100,000 property owners have filed formal challenges to their new assessments. Ms. Lally predicted a major increase in the Board of Viewers caseload as property owners take their appeals to the next level.
New assessments are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, replacing 2002 base-year values.
First Published September 6, 2012 12:00 am