Judge Orders Property Reassessments For Washington County
WASHINGTON (KDKA) — Allegheny County officials have been fighting reassessments of properties for years, but now judges have ordered them to do it.
A similar decree was just made in Washington County on Wednesday.
Since there is no state law telling when reassessments have to be done and county commissioners aren’t eager to raise taxes, it can be years or even decades between reassessments.
It usually takes a lawsuit to get them done. In Washington County, the lawsuit was brought by Washington City and McGuffey Schools.
A judge ordered all property in Washington County to be reassessed. Few think their values will go down.
“I would probably say no,” Rich Ketter, of North Franklin Township, said. “I don’t ever, ever think that when that goes on that property values are going to go down – they’re going to go up, the assessments are going to go up.”
Bob Hunt, of Washington, isn’t worried about it.
“County taxes right now – mine are reasonable, so that’s why I think they probably will go up,” he said.
Few western Pennsylvania counties have done recent reassessments:
- Allegheny – 2002
- Armstrong – 1997
- Beaver – 1982
- Butler – 1969
- Fayette – 2003
- Indiana – 1988
- Washington – 1981
- Westmoreland – 1973
Susan Key, the attorney who argued the case for Washington Schools, says the 1981 base year system became unworkable.
“So if you would build a new building this year in 2011, it would still have to be valued at a 1981 value which is virtually impossible to figure out what it would be worth 30 years ago,” she explained.
The reassessment is expected to cost between $5 million and $8 million.
As for what effect it will have, for those moving, it may make Washington County less attractive.
“We have people moving here from Allegheny County because of what was going on up there with their reassessment,” Larry Maggi, chairman of the Washington County Commissioners, said. “We learned from that. We learned that people’s property taxes went up and we’re afraid that’s what’s going to happen here because we’ve traditionally always had lower taxes.”
Maggi estimates 90 percent of property values will likely go up. The reassessment could start as early as July, but it’s a long process. By the time it’s done, it probably won’t be put into effect until maybe 2015.