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The big elephant in the room - Property Tax Reassessments in Washington County

Washington County Property Tax Reassessment Discussion

I have been fortunate to call Peters Township home for 34 years.  My background is that of being a Real Estate Broker for nine years, and working in the fields of New Construction and Residential Real Estate Development in Peters Township for fifteen years.  

What caught me off guard this week, was a PT Council Meeting that I attended this past Monday, November 26, 2012.  

As many of you have probably read or seen on television, Allegheny County has been dealing with a court ordered property tax reassessment for a few years now.  It is a huge project, very complicated, and tremendously time consuming.  

Washington County is currently under a court order to hire a firm to help with a reassessment that has not occurred since 1981!  That is right, 1981 (that is not a typo) - 31 years have passed since our county has had a reassessment of all the properities (vacant ground, residential homes, commercial/industrial properties, etc.)

There are over a 100+ property tax appeals that are currently in progress on parcels of land in Peters Township alone (and we are only one municipality in a very large county).  This needs to stop - As much as no property owner wants their property taxes to increase - there is one law that must stay the same - 'The Uniformity Clause'.  This clause states that all properties located in Pennsylvania must be assessed in a manner that is fair, balanced and equal.  The current assessed values (at least in Peters Township) are far from fair and balanced.  

An example of this follows (this is for illustration purposes only based upon my personal experience listing and selling homes in Peters Township):  An approximately 3,200 sq. ft. home (four bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage) located on a half acre lot might be assessed with a total yearly tax due of approximately $9,000-$10,000/per year, but the same home built 15-20 years ago might be $5,000-$6,000/per year - this is a MAJOR difference and needs to be rectified sooner rather than later.

It is my personal opinion that each and every property owner in Washington County needs to get involved and become educated as much as possible to understand the reasons and the necessity for a countywide property reassessment. A lot of dollars are at stake, a lot of emotions run high on this issue, but an informed taxpayer is a necessity in this situation that we all will be dealing with in the next few months, and most likely years ahead.

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joe December 02, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Ted: great point, as always peters twp. in particular always rides the coattails of new construction in to financial success, Even if you look at our transfer tax system to our sewage tap in fees we always hit up the new buyer. Glad you started the talk on this issue. It has to be a level playing field.
Ted Taylor 4 December 02, 2012 at 04:09 PM
@Joe - Thank you for your kind words, as well as your comment. Let's keep this discussion going...unfortunately, it is not going to be fixed overnight.
joe December 02, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Ted: i think the general public suffers from apathy in many cases. Lets look at our twps. comp.land use planning, its difficult to get any real input from residents, The only time residents speak up is when someone is talking taxes. As a county and twp resident one should be involved in this tax issue and comp. planning, this too will have a direct effect on taxes in the future. The residents of our twp dont want to be re accessed but they are glad to place the burden of payment on newer residents. ( fyi I am a lifelong resident of peters ) Yet they enjoy the benefits of all the growth. As you said it wont be solved over night.
Ted Taylor 4 December 03, 2012 at 08:35 AM
@Joe - it just seems there is too much complancency. 'It' is never a problem until it affects 'them' (referring to the taxpayers/citizens). It is my opinion that this is a major problem, and although it is a Commonwealth problem that includes 67 counties, Washington County is next to deal with it because of the current litigation (since our wonderful legislators in Harrisburg just kick the can down the road instead of dealing with the issue - most are just worried about re-election 100% of the time and taking 50+ % of the year off instead of working together to address the problem at hand - property tax reform).
Joseph December 31, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Ted: We purchased a new home in Old Trail several years ago. Our school and property taxes combined are close to ten grand. We lived in the DC area prior to moving here, and our taxes were about half as much. Reassessments took place all the time. Thanks for writing about this.
Ted Taylor 4 December 31, 2012 at 07:43 PM
@Joseph - You are Welcome. Thank You for reading, as well as commenting on this major issue affecting every homeowner in Washington County, Pennsylvania. 2013 will definitely be interesting in regards to Tax Reassessments in PA. Happy New Year to you and your family!
Jane January 02, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Ted, but keep in mind that the newer homes have a higher market value. My home is 20 yrs old and I could not sell it at new construction prices. My house, 5 bedroom 5 bathrooms, in new constuction would be at least $200,000 more in sale price than what I could get.
Ted Taylor 4 January 02, 2013 at 04:30 PM
@Jane - I agree with you to a 'point', but you might be surprised of the value of your current home. My advice would be to have a qualified realtor provide you with a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) to get a better idea of what current houses are selling for in your neighborhood, or better yet, invest $300-400 for a full value via an Appraisal.

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