Allegheny County’s recent reassessment process has been a clear example of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s broken property tax reassessment system. Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that doesn’t require regular, professional, standardized property tax reassessments and the disastrous results of that failure are apparent all around us. Going decades without reassessments and then being forced into them via lawsuits is a recipe for failure and that is just what we have witnessed – failure to follow national standards in conducting a reassessment; failure to protect low- and moderate-income homeowners and senior citizens; and failure to produce equitable results that reflect real changes in property value without burdening taxpayers. Leaders of the State, the County, and the City fought against the harmful, judicially-mandated reassessment but we lost the fight. We have to work with leaders in Harrisburg to make sure that this never happens again and to put in place a system that is fair, equitable, and protects property owners from being taxed out of their homes.
1. A Sensible Approach to Property Tax Reassessment
A bipartisan group of state legislators including Representative Jesse White, D-46, has begun to move us toward a modern system of property tax reassessment that has the potential to ensure that Allegheny County and counties around the Commonwealth never have to go through this painful process again. Rep. White and his colleagues have proposed a complete overhaul of the way we conduct assessments and have already been able to shepherd some reforms unanimously through both the House and the Senate. There is more to be done to pass and enact a complete overhaul but the actions that have been taken so far are a welcome sign of change on the horizon. As Mayor, I will work closely with reformers in Harrisburg to make sure that these initial actions and other proposals on the table are enacted and forever end the senseless system that is now in place.
First, we have to institute a regular, predictable, modern statewide process for reassessment based on national standards and best practices. Every county in the Commonwealth should have the same system, should know exactly how to conduct an assessment, and should be able to work closely with property owners – especially low- and moderate-income homeowners and seniors – to help them stay in their homes and stay financial healthy. Every county in the Commonwealth should have an easily accessible system for appealing changes and correcting mistakes. Most importantly, every county in the Commonwealth should have a moratorium on future assessments until a sensible process is fully implemented. We owe it to the taxpayers of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and Pennsylvania to fix this broken system once and for all.