ShareThis Page
Audit: Property board values in error |

Audit: Property board values in error

| Friday, February 11, 2011 12:00 a.m

HARRISBURG — An obscure state board that certifies property market values had a 65 percent error rate in a sample reviewed by state auditors, creating the possibility some property owners paid more taxes than they should have, Auditor General Jack Wagner said.

In an audit released Thursday, Wagner said the board, whose figures are used to calculate state funding for school districts and for other local government funding streams, made errors resulting from “a flawed computer system and human error” in 70 municipalities the audit examined.

If school districts and municipalities received less money that they were owed, the errors could have caused unnecessary tax increases, said Wagner. In other cases, districts may have received more money than they were entitled to, he said.

Wagner’s auditors reviewed market values from districts including the Allegheny Valley School District in Allegheny County, Rochester Area School District in Beaver County, the McGuffey School District in Washington County and the Hempfield Area School District in Westmoreland County.

The State Tax Equalization Board, created in 1947, is responsible for reconciling market values stemming from the wide disparity in county assessment systems.

Property market values certified by the board are used by the Department of Education and other state agencies to calculate more than $9 billion in state aid to school districts, libraries, volunteer firefighter relief associations and community colleges, Wagner said.

Wagner at a news conference compared the board to a “1947 Hudson with a misfiring engine and a driver that may be asleep at the wheel.”

In a written response, the board said it is conducting an internal evaluation of the problems.

Many recommendations in the audit are being implemented, including replacement of the agency’s computer system, the board said. That system was “responsible for a good portion of the errors that you (Wagner) and (board) management staff have observed.”

The board expressed concern that the audit “fails to place (Wagner’s) findings in a balanced legal and factual context.”

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.