PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a daunting task to say the least — re-assessing and coming up with new values for half a million properties in Allegheny County.
Are these assessors getting it right? Or are they missing the mark?
To many these assessments seem to have no rhyme or reason like throwing darts while blindfolded.
The county’s paying a private contractor $11 million to come up with the numbers but he won’t say how.
“I have no comment now,” Wesley Graham with CLT Assessors said.
The fancy name for it is regression analysis, but it’s a relatively simple formula.
“It’s not rocket science in a certain sense,” Chris Briem, of the University of Pittsburgh, said.
It takes into account the characteristics of your house and property — how big or small — what condition it’s in – and perhaps more importantly what town or neighborhood.
“Realtors say, ‘Location, location, location’, so the neighborhood matters,” Briem said.
Taking home sale prices in your neighborhood and marrying that to the characteristics of your house, assessors come up with a new value.
In general, houses in hot neighborhoods like Mt. Washington have seen big jumps — while in poorer places like Mount Oliver, assessments have gone down.
Briem says it’s becoming fairer. In fact, he says two out of three property owners should pay less in taxes next year.
“Most city taxpayers will see a sizable tax decrease,” he said.
But while it works in some places, it doesn’t work everywhere. Private appraiser Anthony Barone is busy on Boyle Street on the North Side where a row house nearly tripled going from $65,000 to $180,000.
“This lady here is about 97 years old, she’s lived here for 60 years,” Barone said. “To be hit with that type of assessment, I don’t know if she could pay her taxes anymore.”
Property values are most out of whack on streets like Boyle — the poorer parts of up and coming neighborhoods. Properties are getting hardest hit by over-assessments.
“Well, we went from $15,000 to $185,000 which is quite a jump,” Jason Sumney said.
Boyle Street is challenged by boarded up and dilapidated buildings but it’s being assessed as if it were part of the tonier Mexican War streets nearby.
“They’re lumping us in with the Mexican War Streets but we’re not the Mexican Wars Streets,” Sumney said.
Still, Breim believes these discrepancies will be washed out in the appeals process.
“It’s gonna be not perfect, but it’s certainly better than where we’re at now,” he said.
Allegheny County Executive and reassessment fighter Rich Fitzgerald says that after spending $60 million dollars on reassessments in the past 13 years, it’s time to scrap this assessment system altogether.
“Maybe it isn’t necessarily just this company because what I’ve been saying is, ‘You can’t get it right,’” he said.