Allegheny's assessment mess: Here's one story about what homeowners are going through
Share with others:
If there is any deluded soul who believes the Allegheny County property assessment and appeal system is equitable and well-reasoned, I hope they will reconsider after reading my tale of multiple bureaucratic incompetence.
My home is assigned a 2013 reassessed value that was obviously pulled out of the air. It is $26,800 higher than a recent professional appraisal and $32,900 higher than a recent comparable sale a few doors from my residence.
Strike one against the ability to assess accurately is that the "assessor" does not enter the home, thus there is no distinction made between my home, which has its original, antiquated kitchen dating from its construction in 1976, and the homes of neighbors who have spent $50,000-plus to install state-of-the-art, modern kitchens.
Upon notification of the inflated value of my home for 2013, I immediately filed an appeal and request for a formal hearing. I am one of the "fortunate" few thousand home- owners who has completed the formal appeal hearing process to date, a minute portion of the more than 100,000 who filed appeals this year.
I was confident that the hearing officer, a professional real estate associate whom I believed had listened to me and considered my evidence, would recommend reducing the assessed value based upon my clearcut evidence -- the two items which homeowners are told are the keys to successful appeals. After all, the value arrived at by a seasoned appraiser who reviewed in detail every facet of the home, inside and out, would be more compelling than the county's computer-assigned value, would it not?
I was shocked and upset to be notified almost two months after my hearing that because of "insufficient evidence," the value of my home would remain as assigned. Apparently neither the hearing officer nor the Board of Viewers is required to provide any specific information or explanation to enable me to determine why the appeal failed.
I have now filed an appeal to Common Pleas Court for which I have paid a $106 filing fee, which apparently is not refundable regardless of the outcome. It is my understanding that such an appeal can require years to be resolved, a period during which I will be required to pay an inflated amount of tax based upon an obviously flawed assessment, an amount which shall be further boosted as a result of mammoth county and Upper St. Clair school district property tax increases imposed this year.
Why is the homeowner subjected to this type of misery, waste of time and expense? Why is a system that imposes taxes subjectively and ruinously and with no relationship to one's ability to pay retained? Why are the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and Common Pleas Court Judge R. Stanton Wettick, who ordered the reassessment, bound and determined to drive homeowners out of Allegheny County? Why did the county not engage real estate professionals who know how to assess properties and skilled appeals hearing officers who give weight to critical factors that argue for lower assessments?
Little could I have known that, when I left the city of Pittsburgh after 45 years of residency in 2002, I should have traveled another two miles to the peaceful and serene Peters Township in Washington County, a community which values its residents.
First Published July 10, 2012 12:00 am