Allegheny County Reassessment Wreaks Havoc on Property Tax Rates

The Allegheny County property reassessment and appeals are wreaking havoc on local communities trying to figure out their 2013 budgets.

The Allegheny County property reassessment and parade of appeals are wreaking havoc on local communities trying to figure our their 2013 budgets and tax rates.

The problems arise from the uncertainty of what the actual final assessment will yield since thousands of county property owners challenged the numbers and many have had them reduced.

The final numbers won’t be released to each community until mid-December, making it nearly impossible for government officials to hone in on a property tax rate. However, each town must advertise that millage rate now and pass its budget before the end of the year.

“This is a shot in the dark,” Scott Township Board of Commissioners President Tom Castello said.

To add to the mess, the towns are permitted to raise property tax revenue by only 5 percent so as not to use the reassessment as a major tax increase. Bob McTiernan, who is Scott Township’s lawyer, advised the commissioners to estimate the millage rate slightly on the high side to make it easier to reduce the number if needed.

“Everyone is experimenting with this trying to comply,” McTiernan said.

Every other town in Allegheny County, such as Bridgeville, Collier, Heidelberg and South Fayette, surely are facing similar problems.

The Scott Township commissioners ripped the assessment and the process that led to the tardy numbers.

“This assessment is, at best, terrible,” Scott Township Commissioner Bill Well said.

Castello didn’t disagree, but said there is nothing they could do but comply.

“It is ridiculous,” Castello said. “But, unfortunately, this is the deck we’re playing with.”

Each municipality must pass its budget by the end of December. A property owner’s new tax bill will be determined by how much their assessment increased compared to the rest of the community.

Below is a list of area towns and the average the properties increased. The numbers were released in February and are preliminary because they do not reflect the results after all appeals.


Increases By Municipality Before Appeals

Bridgeville – 42 percent  (Homes increased 42 percent)

Collier Township – 35 percent  (Homes increased 25 percent)

Heidelberg – 35 percent  (Homes increased 38 percent)

Scott Township – 33 percent  (Homes increased 28 percent)

South Fayette - 34 percent

Upper St. Clair – 22 percent


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MD November 29, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Mike Jones (Editor) November 29, 2012 at 01:58 PM
That is an interesting proposal, but unfortunately it falls short in fully funding education. According to some news reports, it falls $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion short of the annual $11.5 billion needed to fund education in the state... http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/state/report-pa-house-bill-to-abolish-school-property-taxes-would-fall-15-billion-short-655676/ I hate property taxes as much as anyone else. I live in South Fayette so I'm really getting hammered. But there are winners and losers in every tax system, so some of us should be careful what we wish for.
Arleen Wheat November 30, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Good Luck living in South Fayette, Mike! My South Fayette home is going on the market in the Spring. I am moving out of the school district AND Allegheny County. I've had enough! South Fayette should be proud along with Allegheny County.
Mike Jones (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I'm not far behind you. South Fayette School District built its mansion on the hill next to its high school version of Heinz Field. I'm all for investing in public education, but that luxurious campus is appalling to me. Their annual tax hikes to pay for it is driving people like us out of town.
MD December 03, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Moving doesn't resolve the problem with property taxes,spending does.If the HB 1776 is falling short then let's figure a way to not fall short.The system currently in place gives you no option.I guess one MOVE as Arleen said.The issue here is you have no choice pay or loose your house or in your case MOVE.This simply is not right ! www.ptcc.us If the people of this state keep the pressure on the Legislation,then a change will happen for all the right reasons: 1) Own your house 2) " a choice " 3) eliminate reassessment spending 4) excessive spending for the mansion schools,football fields,sports complex,etc 5) "sheriff sales" for lack of payment on property taxes you can longer affort
Mike Jones (Editor) December 03, 2012 at 04:03 PM
How will tax money be allocated to the school districts through HB 1776? If you have a statewide tax base, then what is the point of having school boards and local control? How this would work has never been explained. A school district such as South Fayette that has significant capital expenditures with the new buildings/campus would have to levy some sort of additional tax to pay for it.
MD December 05, 2012 at 02:39 PM
MIke, Please review,everything on HB-1776 on the questions you have about funding,etc http://www.ptcc.us/solution.htm
David Baldinger December 05, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Mike Jones, you're making comments without researching the facts; that's irresponsible journalism. The distribution method for HB 1776/SB 1400 is a dollar-for-dollar replacement of eliminated school taxes and is clearly described here: http://www.ptcc.us/solution.htm Because of an omitted SUT line item the $1.5 billion shortfall as stated in the Independent Fiscal Office report is actually just over $1.1 billion and will be covered by an increase in the PIT in the new version of the legislation. Like many of the opponents of the bill, you are using the results of the IFO report as a weapon against the plan rather than a tool to make adjustments. Details of this are here: http://www.ptcc.us/arc111312.htm For whom are you a shill?
Mike Jones (Editor) December 05, 2012 at 10:11 PM
If you have a problem with the story I posted in the comments section here, then you might want to contact the Post-Gazette.
Mike Jones (Editor) December 06, 2012 at 12:09 AM
MD... I went through that website, and previously browsed it to compare my tax rate between the current system and HB1776. If it goes through, I would receive a massive tax cut. That's great for me! But it also makes me skeptical. Are those numbers correct and, if so, who will now be paying my portion? I read on that website about how money is allocated and how tax increases would be handled. But it makes me wonder how a school district such as South Fayette would be able to construct new buildings for its booming population. If you put a tax increase on the ballot, it's going down no matter where you live. So what would SF do to keep up with student enrollment?
Mike Jones (Editor) December 06, 2012 at 12:11 AM
I'll be the first one to admit that I hate paying property taxes. They're way too high. But I'm not sure if HB 1776 is the answer. It could be, but I need to hear more about the ramifications of changing the system. It can't be much worse, but I think many Pennsylvanians want to know if it fixes the problem and is fair.
David Baldinger December 07, 2012 at 03:15 AM
As one of the leaders of the taxpayer coalition that helped to develop and author this legislation I am intimately aware of the details and the fiscal aspects of the bill. Of course the proposal doesn't match the funding. The legislation was written in good faith based on the best available numbers from the House Appropriations Committee staff and the Governor's 2012-2013 budget book. We always knew that is was likely the numbers would be somewhat inaccurate and planned to amend the legislation after the House Appropriations Committee finished their analysis and issued the required fiscal note. The IFO report preceded the the AC analysis and those are the numbers that are being used to amend the bill for the 2013-2014 introduction. BTW, the AC analysis was issued shortly after the IFO report and the numbers were essentially identical. Continued...
David Baldinger December 07, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Since the IFO report was issued I have heard politicians who oppose the legislation use the shortfall as a weapon against HB 1776/SB 1400, rather than using it as a tool to make needed changes. Many of these members oppose the legislation not because of its merits but because it offends one or another of the special interests that do not want to see this bill become law. To see who is applying this pressure and attempting to kill the legislation, just research the list of testifiers at the House and Senate Finance Committee hearings. Continued...
David Baldinger December 07, 2012 at 03:16 AM
The most important point here, I believe, is the grassroots involvement in HB 1776/SB 1400 and our work with Rep. Jim Cox and Sen. Dave Argall on this measure. From the earliest discussions of this version of the legislation in November 2010, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations has been a full partner in the drafting of the Property Tax Independence Act. This legislation is a fully collaborative effort between lawmakers and the taxpayers who support it and, because of this collaboration, has gained widespread acceptance by residents from across the Commonwealth. It is truly the people's legislation and as close to a taxpayer initiative as you're going to get in Pennsylvania. All I ask from this is that the legislation is reported fairly.
Mike Jones (Editor) December 11, 2012 at 02:51 PM
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that the deadline for towns to set their budgets and millage rates is being delayed until Jan. 31... http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/allegheny-county-millage-


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