Property assessment forum 2

Paul Paterra/Observer-Reporter

Allegheny County Controller Corey O’Connor, right, chats with attendees at a property assessment education forum Sept. 19 at the Carnegie Library of McKeesport.

A decision is pending on whether another round of property assessment appeals will be permitted to be filed this year.

To give those who hope to appeal their assessments the information they may need, Allegheny County Controller Corey O’Connor is holding a number of property assessment education forums throughout the county.

One such forum took place Sept. 19 at the Carnegie Library of McKeesport.

“Our thought (for having these) is getting ahead of it,” O’Connor said. “This is a good way to get people information about what’s going on, how you appeal, what that looks like. A lot of people don’t know this information is out there so our thought was get it to them as quickly as we could.”

O’Connor is partnering with Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, a coalition of local community-based organizations focused on housing fairness and equity, and the Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh on the sessions.

“Why do we care about this issue? Because it is an equity issue,” said Chris Rosselot, policy director for the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group. “But we also care about resources that are available to the community for people who may want to appeal but don’t know how.”

Allegheny County Council is considering opening an additional appeals window for at least the 2022 tax year – a decision that also can be made at the county court level. The original deadline for filing appeals was March 31.

Ryan Herbinko, solicitor for the controller’s office, explained the process of filing an appeal.

“You really have to look at your property relative to your neighbor’s and relative to your area,” Herbinko explained about whether or not a person should consider filing an appeal. “If you feel your property is at a higher value than it’s really worth, then you should appeal.”

He suggested having as much evidence on hand as possible to help in the process, such as recently sold comparable properties, as well as estimates and appraisals, but not assessed values.

“You want tangible evidence – hard, concrete data,” Herbinko said.

Herbinko said the hearing takes place by telephone and lasts about five minutes. The result is usually received in six to eight weeks.

A victory for homeowners in general came earlier this month when Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Alan Hertzberg ordered a reduction in the number to be used in 2022 appeal hearings to determine the value at which property will be taxed, from 81.1% to 63.53%, and directed the county to reexamine sales data.

That could provide relief for many property owners who have been hit with assessment appeals filed by school district and municipalities after buying homes in Allegheny County.

“It will affect everyone in Allegheny County,” said Mike Suley, an assessment tax consultant from Scott Township, adding that he projects the number to be 57% in 2023. “The taxpayers won, not the taxing bodies.”

Those numbers were the crux of the lawsuit filed in 2021 by nine property owners, in which it is alleged that Allegheny County was sending the State Tax Equalization Board incorrect and biased information on 2020 property sales. Suley was a consultant in the lawsuit.

“In many cases, property owners saw their taxes double,” said Suley, who at one time was the manager of Allegheny County’s Office of Property Assessments.

An appeal of Hertzberg’s decision has been filed by the Pittsburgh School District.

O’Connor will continue to hold the informational sessions as a decision from Hertzberg or county council as to whether another appeals window will be opened is pending.

Other sessions will be held Oct. 13 at the South Fayette Library and Oct. 18 at the Brentwood Civic Center. Each is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

“We want to give you the information that you can use to go back and appeal,” O’Connor said. “I am pleased to use the resources of my office to provide information and to make sure our county government is working effectively for them.”

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