|Frank Kosir, Jr.
Property owners in Washington County will soon be receiving notices of real estate reassessments. This will mark the first County-wide reassessment in Washington County since 1981. County and municipal taxes will be calculated based on the new valuations starting on January 1, 2017, and school taxes will be calculated on these new values starting on July 1, 2017.
Washington County assessments are currently based on 25% of a parcel’s fair market value. However, after the reassessment, the assessments will be based on 100% of the fair market value. For example, under the current system, a property valued at $200,000.00 is assessed at $50,000.00. However, after the reassessment, a property valued at $200,000.00 will be assessed at $200,000.00. As a result, most property owners will see a significant increase in the assessed values of their properties. However, this does not translate into a commensurate increase in real estate taxes, as Pennsylvania law prohibits school districts from receiving a windfall in total taxes collected from a reassessment, and municipalities cannot receive more than a five percent (5%) increase in total taxes collected as a result of the reassessment.
The first notice that property owners will receive will be a Notice of Informal Review, which was scheduled to be mailed to each property owner in late March or early April of 2016, depending upon the municipality in which their property is located. This Notice will include both a new assessed valuation of the property, as well as a description of the property.
Any property owner who believes that the notice incorrectly describes their property will have the opportunity to request an informal review with Tyler Technologies, the firm that the County hired to conduct the reassessment. The sole purpose of the informal review is to address any errors in the assessment records, such as the total square footage of the structure, total number of rooms, total number of garages, etc. The informal review process does not specifically address valuation, and property owners will not have an opportunity to present evidence of value at the informal review.
Following the completion of informal reviews, on July 1, 2016, the County will issue a Change of Assessment Notice, setting forth the final assessed value for the property. Property owners will have forty (40) days from the date of this notice (August 10, 2016) to file a formal assessment appeal with the Washington County Tax Revenue Department; although, the Department has indicated that the deadline for filing appeals may be extended to September 1, 2016. Failure to participate in the informal review process will not impact a property owner’s right to pursue an appeal. At the formal hearing, property owners will be able to present evidence in opposition to the assessed value. This evidence can include, but is not limited to, sales of comparable properties, defects in the structure or in the condition of the land, and negative aspects of the property’s location. Following the appeal hearing, the Department will issue a decision, and any aggrieved party will have 30 days to appeal that decision to the Washington County Court of Common Pleas.
At Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP, our experience and hard work can help property owners through the appeal process, possibly saving property owners money, by obtaining a lower assessed value. While every case is unique, factors such as the size and use of the property, comparable sales of properties in the area, and age and nature of structures in the property have an impact on the assessed value. It is important to evaluate the possibility of a tax assessment appeal and to consider obtaining an independent appraisal when you believe that your property was inaccurately assessed. Analysis of the accuracy of the property assessment is an essential component to managing your valuable real estate assets.