A Tale of Two Counties - 2

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Allegheny County and Washington County are both under court orders to complete countywide reassessments. Because of an unexpected Independence Day gift from the Pennsylvania state legislature, however, Washington County is no longer required to reassess. Over the July 4 holiday weekend, the legislature passed a limited moratorium on reassessments. The moratorium as it was originally drafted was intended to remain in place temporarily while the legislature considered property tax reform for the entire state. Instead, at the final hour, the legislature limited the moratorium to Washington County alone. From the standpoint of elected officials in these counties who are concerned about how property owners will react to the reassessments, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times: Washington County officials are ecstatic and Allegheny County officials are dismayed and upset.

Meanwhile, in Allegheny County, on July 5, 2011, Judge R. Stanton Wettick, Jr. met with county officials concerning the status of the reassessment. Both the county and its consultant, CLT, have finished about 30 percent of the work needed to complete the proposed 2012 reassessment. The county is working on the residential properties and has valued 154,000 of the approximately 500,000 residential properties. Although specific numbers were not discussed, CLT, which is working on the commercial properties in the county, also reported valuing approximately 30 percent of the commercial properties. CLT claims to be on track to complete valuing the commercial properties by September/October 2011. However, CLT's valuations are currently subject to a peer review process and independent verification process by the county. To expedite the process, the county placed an advertisement to retain additional property valuators; however, the advertisement met with limited success as the county received only four résumés in response. The county also rejected a proposal by CLT to assist the county with the valuation of 200,000 residential properties because the $450,000 price tag is not budgeted.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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