Allegheny County's release of new property values has been delayed . . . again. Starting this week, homeowners were supposed to get their first look at new values in a decade, but now won't see them until January. Final numbers may not be issued until this time next year.
Property owners will not find out until January how much Allegheny County assessors think their real estate is worth, county manager Jim Flynn said today.
Preliminary values have been assigned to only about 30 percent of residential properties and 31 percent of commercial properties, Mr. Flynn told Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. Judge Wettick ordered the county to do the county-wide reassessment, and he has been meeting regularly with county officials for updates on the controversial project.
The original deadline for sending out preliminary assessments was this month, but that date has been set back, first until September or October, and now until next year.
Part of the problem has been a lack of "value reviewers," people trained in real estate who determine how much a property is worth, Mr. Flynn said. The county advertised for additional staff, who must have at least 90 hours of real-estate training, but received only four valid replies.
Once preliminary numbers are available, property owners will have opportunities to informally appeal their new assessments. Those appeals will be done in person, with homeowners and business owners providing evidence showing why their new assessments are inaccurate.
Certified assessment numbers, which school districts, municipalities and the county itself uses to set tax rates for budgets, would not be available until several months later. Mr. Flynn said a May or June deadline for having certified values would be a "worst-case scenario."
Judge Wettick appeared concerned that existing over-assessments and under-assessments under the current 2002 base-year system could continue for another half year at least. The net effect of those assessment inequities is that some taxpayers are paying relatively larger or smaller shares of property taxes than they would if all properties were fairly valued.
The effects of reassessment must be revenue neutral, Don Driscoll, a lawyer with the Community Justice Project, said after Tuesday's status conference. That means the total amount of money school districts and municipalities collect at current tax rates cannot increase when new assessed values are assigned, he said. Property owners, however, will pay different amounts, depending on whether they were underpaying or overpaying under the 2002 numbers.
The Community Justice Project is one of the groups that asked the courts to order a reassessment.
Judge Wettick will meet with county officials for another update at 10 a.m. July 21.