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CMU Professor Says Property Tax Bills May Be Set Too High

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Andy Sheehan Andy Sheehan
KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan began his broadcast journalism...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — As a county taxpayer, you’ve probably been bracing for it since you got your reassessment notice. Click on the county assessment website and there it is – your 2013 real estate tax bill.

“Now you’re getting the actual bill,” says Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “You’re having to actually write that check.”

But across town at Carnegie Mellon University, Professor Robert Strauss says regardless of their new assessment, taxpayers will be paying too much.

“They’re being asked to pay more than what we calculate their supposed to be paying,” said Strauss.

It’s academic and the professor tries to make it simple through a computer program he’s turned into a website: propertyestimator.net.

By dividing the county’s revenue needs by the new total assessment value, he concludes that Fitzgerald has set the millage 10 percent too high, a sizable hit for the taxpayer.

Ten percent is 10 percent. There are people of modest means; they’re going to have to make more difficult choices,” said Strauss.

“We had make a best guess estimate, and we feel very confident that we arrived at that,” said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald stands by the millage rating, accusing the professor of fuzzy math, and it’s not the first time the two have knocked heads.

“This professor has always been for the reassessment; and it always cracks me up that he lives in Westmoreland County, but he never goes to the Westmoreland County Commissioner’s – where they haven’t reassessed in over 30 years – but he comes into Allegheny County to tell us we need to reassess,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald says Strauss is wrong about the millage rate and wrong about the need for the reassessment.

My recommendation to the professor would be, get Westmoreland County to reassess and see how your neighbors like it in your neck of the woods,” he added.

I do independent, objective, professional analysis based on my years of experience and training, and call it as I see it,” said Strauss.

But regardless of the dispute, the county millage rate is set. The county taxes are due and it’s time to write that check.

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