Washington County commissioners to pursue property reassessments -- although they oppose them

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Washington County commissioners today announced they will begin seeking proposals for a countywide reassessment despite their objection to the process.

"No matter what, I need to make it perfectly clear that we are 100 percent against reassessment," commission Chairman Larry Maggi said today at a press conference with fellow commissioners Diana Irey Vaughan and Harlan Shober. "I will not be a cheerleader for reassessment for numerous reasons."

Mr. Maggi said commissioners had little choice but to agree to begin the $8 million reassessment process after a lawyer representing two school districts asked a judge today to hold the commissioners in contempt for not following an earlier court-ordered reassessment.

This morning, county President Judge Debbie O'Dell Seneca heard from county solicitors and Susan Mondik Key, who represents the Washington and McGuffey school districts.

The districts sued the county several years ago to force a reassessment and the county has been fighting against it since.

Ms. Mondik Key asked that commissioners be held in contempt.

Judge O'Dell Seneca said she would consider the petition. She scheduled a status hearing for June 4, by which time the commissioners hope to have selected a reassessment firm.

There has not been a reassessment in the county since 1981, and the districts feel the current system is unfair.

Mr. Maggi said commissioners were disappointed by a lack of action from state government to address the property tax issue statewide.

"The system is broken and we have asked our legislators to work on a system to fix it," he said.

The Legislature in 2011 passed a property tax reform bill that placed a moratorium on reassessments in Washington County, but Republican Gov. Tom Corbett vetoed it, calling it unconstitutional to single out one county.

The Legislature today is considering Senate Bill 66, which includes property tax reforms and places responsibility for reassessments under the umbrella of the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The bill was approved Wednesday by the state House Local Government Committee and could be on the governor's desk by the end of the week.

If the measure passes, Mr. Maggi said the county hopes it will be the first pilot project for the DCED, which would provide a standardized method of conducting reassessments, along with training and a database for counties.

Correction/Clarification: (Published March 19, 2013) An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect last name for Susan Mondik Key. mobilehome - breaking - region - legalnews - neigh_south - neigh_washington

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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