The Westmoreland County commissioners’ recent decision to permit tax bills to go out based on flawed assessments from the Nixon administration is based on faulty reasoning ( “Westmoreland County has no desire to reassess properties, commissioner says” ). It’s based on the fact that less than 2,000 appeals have been filed over the last two years and neutral-revenue laws that result in no additional income to taxing bodies from reassessment.
If the commissioners conducted a ratio study on the present assessments, assessment professionals wouldn’t be surprised to find 60,000 property owners countywide paying more than they should in taxes.
Other than reassessment, another way for owners to reduce the tax burden is through the appeals process. State law permits property owners a lower assessment on appeal if the present assessment is greater than 20 percent of the current real-time market value. If your home is worth $100,000, your assessment shouldn’t exceed $20,000. If many county property owners took the present assessment and applied the 20 percent rule to present value, there would be tens of thousands of appeals each year. This 20 percent rule also applies to commercial properties.
Since the county has made the decision to do nothing regarding assessments, it is up to individual owners to reduce their tax bills by appealing next year. At this time, the common level ratio of 19.8 percent must be applied to the present value on appeal. Review your assessment to see if you’re paying too much. Some of you might be pleasantly surprised.
The writer is a state-certified assessor.