More staff to hear reassessment appeals, Allegheny County says
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With more than 80,000 assessment appeals yet to be heard, the Allegheny County agency responsible for handling them is adding more staff.
The quasi-independent Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review already has 70 hearing officers handling reassessment challenges, county spokeswoman Amie Downs said last week. The appeals board plans to hire another 10 temporary staffers with experience in real estate.
The additional employees should allow the county's Office of Property Assessments to make the December deadline for delivering new real estate values to school districts and municipalities, Ms. Downs said.
More than 100,000 property owners have filed formal appeals of the new assessed values assigned to their homes and businesses, according to county statistics.
That number exceeds the 93,000 formal appeals filed in response to the county's last reassessment in 2001. This year's total of 103,623 is much higher than initially reported because it includes challenges that were postmarked by the April 2 deadline but not received by the county until some time later.
Reporting last week to the judge who is overseeing reassessment, David Montgomery, solicitor for the appeals board, pledged that the pace of hearings would speed up dramatically over the summer. Hearing officers will be able to concentrate on formal assessment appeals now that all informal challenges to new property values have been heard, he said.
The Office of Property Assessments, which certifies the values used to calculate real estate taxes, and the appeals board, which has legal authority to revise assessments after successful appeals, face a Dec. 17 deadline for resolving challenges. That is the date by which the county is to provide a "final and revised roll" of property values that other government agencies will use as the basis for their 2013 property taxes.
A total of 68,481 property owners requested informal appeals of their new assessments, according to the county. The last of those hearings was held June 1.
Of that number, 23,291, or 34 percent, have been resolved, while another 8,195, or about 12 percent, turned out to be duplicates. About 5 percent were withdrawn, leaving 33,486, or about 49 percent, on which action remains to be taken.
Slightly less than 45 percent of those who made informal appeals saw their assessed value decline. The average drop was $37,805. There was no change following 54 percent of informal appeals. Less than 2 percent of informal appeals resulted in an assessment increase.
Of the 103,623 formal appeals, 89,113, or 86 percent, are residential. Commercial appeals total 14,510.
About 5 percent, or 5,139, have been held and resolved. Another 10,400, or 10 percent, have been scheduled or postponed but not yet heard. Fully 80 percent, 83,188, remain to be scheduled.
The final 4,599, or 4 percent, had been withdrawn, suspended or had been received after the deadline for filing an appeal.
The total number of formal appeals is likely to change as people who filed informal challenges learn the results of their hearings in the coming weeks. While this year's April 2 deadline for filing formal appeals has passed, property owners who filed informal challenges get another chance to question the new real estate value if they still disagree with the county's valuation.
The burden of proof in formal appeals is on property owners to provide evidence that the new assessments are wrong,
A certified appraisal is the most persuasive evidence, Phillis D. Lavelle, chairwoman of the appeals board, has said. Recent sales of comparable properties also can persuade the hearing officer that an assessment should be modified.
First Published June 12, 2012 12:00 am