The Allegheny County property reassessment and parade of appeals are wreaking havoc on local communities trying to figure our their 2013 budgets and tax rates.
The problems arise from the uncertainty of what the actual final assessment will yield since thousands of county property owners challenged the numbers and many have had them reduced.
The final numbers won’t be released to each community until mid-December, making it nearly impossible for government officials to hone in on a property tax rate. However, each town must advertise that millage rate now and pass its budget before the end of the year.
“This is a shot in the dark,” Scott Township Board of Commissioners President Tom Castello said.
To add to the mess, the towns are permitted to raise property tax revenue by only 5 percent so as not to use the reassessment as a major tax increase. Bob McTiernan, who is Scott Township’s lawyer, advised the commissioners to estimate the millage rate slightly on the high side to make it easier to reduce the number if needed.
“Everyone is experimenting with this trying to comply,” McTiernan said.
Every other town in Allegheny County, such as Bridgeville, Collier, Heidelberg and South Fayette, surely are facing similar problems.
The Scott Township commissioners ripped the assessment and the process that led to the tardy numbers.
“This assessment is, at best, terrible,” Scott Township Commissioner Bill Well said.
Castello didn’t disagree, but said there is nothing they could do but comply.
“It is ridiculous,” Castello said. “But, unfortunately, this is the deck we’re playing with.”
Each municipality must pass its budget by the end of December. A property owner’s new tax bill will be determined by how much their assessment increased compared to the rest of the community.
Below is a list of area towns and the average the properties increased. The numbers were released in February and are preliminary because they do not reflect the results after all appeals.
Increases By Municipality Before Appeals
Bridgeville – 42 percent (Homes increased 42 percent)
Collier Township – 35 percent (Homes increased 25 percent)
Heidelberg – 35 percent (Homes increased 38 percent)
Scott Township – 33 percent (Homes increased 28 percent)
South Fayette - 34 percent
Upper St. Clair – 22 percent