The property reassessments were flawed from the start
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So, Tyler Technologies, the firm that conducted the Allegheny County reassessment, has complained that it has not received any payments from the county lately ("Experts Asked to Tweak 'Regressive' Allegheny County Reassessments," June 5). Maybe the county controller is on to something here. Wesley Graham defends his company's performance in completing the county's property reassessment, saying that it meets "International Association of Assessing Officers standards."
I briefly worked as a field reviewer and saw firsthand that the property review process was flawed from the start. Mr. Graham used an outside employment service to hire a field force of property inspectors, many not real estate professionals. In my opinion, they were poorly paid and inadequately trained and supervised for such an important assignment. Initial instruction consisted of 41/2 days of classes with little follow-up. In the field, residential properties were not closely inspected and structural issues of a dwelling were probably not noticed. In addition, the interiors of most properties were not inspected; this important factor was not given much weight in determining value. There was concern to accurately describe the general features of the exterior of the property, but inspections were hurried and emphasis was given to rapidly completing reviews.
Tyler Technologies built on the data collected by the previous, flawed assessment and used the same general method of determining value. The overall principles of a mass appraisal may not work all that well in Allegheny County, where a $500,000 house abuts a $50,000 dwelling in Manchester. The computerized algorithms used to determine value probably function better in places where properties are newer and similar as in many areas of Florida, California and Nevada.
It is too late now to complete a new assessment of properties with a more accurate data collection method. A lengthy, expensive and inconvenient property assessment appeal process will have to be used to correct the errors of the reassessment process. Probably what should happen in the future is that we return to a three-year, revolving location review of properties, conducted by trained Allegheny County Assessment Office employees.
MICHAEL B. NICOLELLA
Certified Pennsylvania Broker/Appraiser
Upper St. Clair
First Published June 21, 2012 12:00 am