Westmoreland County has no desire to reassess properties, commissioner says
Commissioner Charles Anderson pledged Thursday that Westmoreland County would not reassess property values that have remained the same since 1972.
Even as neighboring counties continue to update valuations, Anderson said, the county’s nearly 200,000 properties were not going to be adjusted anytime soon.
“I don’t want to go down the road Allegheny County went. Anytime it has been done, it’s been a disaster,” Anderson said during the annual State of County address by commissioners.
Anderson and Commissioners Gina Cerilli and Ted Kopas spoke to about 260 attendees about county priorities at the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce event at Ferrante’s Lakeview in Hempfield.
“If we were to go forward with a reassessment, it would cost between $12 million to $15 million to do it,” Anderson said. “From our standpoint, it’s neutral revenue. We’re not going to move forward with it.”
Neighboring counties of Indiana, Armstrong, Washington and Allegheny recently have completed or are in the midst of reassessments. In recent years, commissioners have laid the groundwork for a reassessment by updating computer records and having aerial photographs taken of all county properties.
Officials said those preparations were undertaken in case a lawsuit over the county’s outdated assessments is filed in court and a reassessment ordered by a judge. No such court ruling has been entered, leaving a potential reassessment at the discretion of county commissioners.
Anderson said there has been no outpouring of public support to undertake a reassessment, as fewer than 1 percent of property owners filed valuation appeals last year. The county considered 1,069 appeals in 2015 and about 800 in 2014.
“That means we are going to hold fast,” Anderson said.
While Anderson spoke about what the county won’t be doing, Kopas focused on several projects he wants to see completed in 2016.
“We need to fix our paratransit program. Too many people have missed rides or are waiting too long for rides,” Kopas said.
The county’s transit authority assumed control of paratransit and shared-ride programs two years ago. But the system has been bogged down with delays and service problems that the authority has been struggling to correct.
Kopas said commissioners will demand those problems be rectified.
He called for the completion of a long-discussed proposal made to the state Turnpike Commission to install a ramp that leads off the toll road in Penn Township.
Commissioners will look to strengthen the county’s drug overdose task force in the wake of the record number of drug deaths in 2015. The county had 125 fatal overdoses last year, far exceeding the numbers set in previous years.
“All were preventable. More needs to be done,” Kopas said.
Cerilli touted Westmoreland County Community College and said programs offered at the school will further enhance the county’s workforce. She said she wants to see the college, which enrolled about 5,500 students last fall, continue its upward trajectory.
“The goal is to double that enrollment,” Cerilli said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].