County will consider pushing back assessment appeal deadline next week

Published by Andrew McGill on .

County council agreed today to consider an ordinance re-opening property assessment appeals through April 1, holding open the door for folks upset about their tax bill.

In a reassessment as contentious as this, voting to allow more appeals would seem a slam-dunk decision for council. After all, the county previously told property owners they would have to wait until 2014 to file the next challenge for their overvalued Mt. Washington parking spots.

But believe it or not, the extension proposed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald still took shots from some members of the government review committee.

"As I understand it, you're now opening it up to the school districts to come in and appeal," said council member Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon.

County Solicitor Andrew Szefi ceded the point, leaving it to other council members to point out that the extension stands to serve the county's 1.2 million residents as well as its three dozen school districts.

Ms. Heidelbaugh then threw County Controller Chelsa Wagner into the mix, asking how council is supposed to consider her request to adjust millage downwards when the appeals extension will make it even more difficult for the county to figure out exactly how much money it'll collect in 2013.

(Ms. Wagner, by the way, got a chilly reception the night before at the budget and finance committee meeting, where chairman William Robinson, D-Hill District, admonished council members not to say a word in response to her report on the millage decrease. "I don't want anyone getting deposed later," he said cryptically.)

Ms. Heidelbaugh also asked about the cost of the extension and complained that no one knows how many residents will take the county up on its offer for another appeal.

But she saved the best -- or maybe just the most dramatic -- for last.

"What is the real driver for this?" she asked Mr. Szefi.

You could almost see the solicitor's don't-shoot-the-messenger shrug. "If you want to ask the executive, go ahead..."

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