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MONROEVILLE (KDKA) — As malls across America down-size as people shop online, there is a tax consequence looming for local taxpayers because mall owners are appealing to reduce their property assessment values.

“They’re sophisticated. They can hire the lawyers. They can hire the appraisers. They can get the discount because of the assessment being out of whack. And these values will come down,” Mike Suley, a tax assessment consultant, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Friday.

Suley once ran Allegheny County’s Office of Property Assessment, and he says Monroeville Mall is typical.

A special Common Pleas Court master just ruled Monroeville Mall was over-assessed for the last three years, and the three taxing bodies must refund CBL Properties, the owner of the mall, a total of $2.25 million in overpayments.

“It’s a huge tax break for the mall,” says Suley.

Under the stipulation, Allegheny County must refund $379,392 to CBL, Monroeville must refund $320,840, and the Gateway School District must refund $1,550,169.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

In Pennsylvania, property taxes are almost always substantially higher for school districts than other governmental entities.

“This is a serious wound to the Gateway School District, and there will be repercussions down the road, financially,” says Suley.

And it’s a problem going forward.

The lower-assessed values at Monroeville Mall could mean a loss of a half million dollars in taxes each year to the taxing bodies.

At one time, the mall was assessed as high as $148 million.

That’s dropped to $78.6 million in 2018.

CBL Properties, the owners of Monroeville Mall, said they would have no comment on their success in this property assessment appeal.

Nor would say whether the $2.25 million they’re getting would stay in Monroeville or be sent back to the headquarters in Chattanooga, Tenn.

And no word from school official, although sources say a rainy day fund at the school district could cover the immediate loss without raising taxes immediately.