Hempfield supervisors oppose school district assessment appeal program |

Hempfield supervisors oppose school district assessment appeal program

Above, Hempfield Area School District school board members at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 18, 2018. The board voted 5-4 to modify its appeal policy for property-tax assessments.

Hempfield supervisors will back residents who opposed the Hempfield Area School District’s tax-assessment appeal program at the county level.

Supervisors directed the township’s solicitor to support residents whose property assessments are being challenged by the local school district. They also asked Westmoreland County Board of Assessment Appeals officials to maintain the status quo.

Residents turned out in large numbers at a Sept. 10 school board meeting to level criticism at the school district’s assessment-appeal policy , which challenged tax assessments on properties that have sold for more than $100,000 over their assessed value.

Last week, the school board voted 5-4 to retain a Pittsburgh law firm that has been pursuing the appeals but also to raise the threshold to properties that sell for $250,000 above their assessed value.

Supervisor Doug Weimer said he does not support the program.

“This whole matter is very concerning to me,” Weimer said. “I think it could be detrimental to at least the past decade of work this board has done to attract new development and new businesses.”

Fellow supervisor Rob Ritson agreed.

“We got a lot of pushback against the school district’s program from Hempfield residents, and that’s good to see,” he said.

Weimer said school officials “really need to stop doing this, and I hope sooner than later.”

Jeanne Smith, a school board member, said the township is separate from the school district and is free to do what it likes. However, she said she would prefer that the two bodies work together to address the issue of skewed assessments.

“What we’re doing is the same thing anybody, including residents, can do, which is asking, ‘Is this actually an accurate assessment?’” Smith said.

Jacob Tierney contributed to this report. Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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