BROOKLINE, September 30, 2011 – State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana today filed legislation imposing a moratorium on all court-ordered assessments in the Commonwealth through November 2012, or until the state acts on assessment reforms. There are seven co-sponsors on the legislation.
“In Western PA, and especially Allegheny County, it seems a bit like ‘Groundhog Day’ as we continue to call for changes to the assessment system. I am extremely grateful that seven of my colleagues have joined me in co-sponsoring this legislation, but am disappointed that more members don’t see the need for changes,” said Fontana. “While I understand that the counties they represent are not faced with a reassessment, it doesn’t change the fact that there is an inequity here that we have to address. A state-wide moratorium will allow us to help Allegheny County communities avoid the tremendous burden that comes with reassessment while protecting homeowners and reforming the current system.”
Earlier this month, the county was ordered to complete all assessments in the city first in a move to save the city and its schools as much as $2 million in short-term borrowing costs if not completed on time. The county must certify the updated values in the city by January 1st. The county, however, is asking the judge to reconsider his order. If assessors are allowed to follow their original schedule, all taxing bodies could have aggregate numbers by January 15th. The numbers would be uncertified and preliminary, but would be accurate enough to allow all taxing jurisdictions to set their tax rates. If there are not changes made to the order, the non-city municipalities and school districts will not receive their property values until March or April.
“Allegheny County property taxpayers are being unfairly punished because our assessment system is not uniform. While the residents here have seen numerous reassessments in the past decade, there are another 22 counties which have not completed inspection of their properties since at least the mid-1980s. Our municipalities have seen residents leave the area and move to neighboring counties which have lower real estate values. They are being drive away by the use of a base year system that may go back as far as the 1970s for that ‘base.’ How is that fair? It’s certainly not uniform.”
A September 2010 Legislative Budget & Finance Committee (LBFC) evaluated the current assessment system and make recommendations on how to enhance the current system, as well as provided options for major changes. This past June, the House unanimously passed two resolutions calling for work by two task forces on the assessment issue – their mission is in line with the recommendations made by the LBFC and their reports are due in December.
Joining Senator Fontana as co-sponsors of the temporary moratorium bill are Senators Alloway (Adams), Costa (Allegheny), Schwank (Berks), Solobay (Washington), Tartaglione (Philadelphia), Washington (Philadelphia) and Yudichak (Luzerne).
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