County may be forced to reassess

Blair County commissioners don’t plan to adopt a property reassessment plan any time soon but said Thursday it is “on the radar screen.”

Commissioners Terry Tomassetti and Diane Meling have opposed reassessment, which hasn’t been done in the county since 1958. Retired Commissioner Donna D. Gority had been in favor of the plan.

“Reassessment is starting to come on the radar screen a bit. It was hard to raise taxes and get permission. We are now just 2 mills from the maximum that can be levied,” Meling said. “I think it is on the radar screen but hopefully not for a number of years.”

Tomassetti agreed it was on the radar, adding, “We need to forestall it but it is out there.”

Ted Beam Jr., who replaced Gority on the board in 2012, said reassessment is always a hot issue.

“I don’t think we are at the point where it needs to be considered. I am not sure the county can afford to go through the process, and it is not needed yet,” Beam said.

The commissioners also discussed other issues during their annual appearance before the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Club, including the possible sale of the Valley View Home and surrounding land.

Tomassetti said there are many reasons to sell the home but no valid reasons not to.

“We have had an annual operating loss of $1.1 million since 2005. Valley View’s labor force makes up 35 percent of the county labor and it is not a mandated service,” Tomassetti said. “We are directly competing against the private sector, and we shouldn’t be doing that.”

Meling agreed, but Beam said he is not in favor of selling the home.

“The employees at Valley View and the people at that home want us to keep it and stay a public entity. I have taken that approach,” Beam said. “We will wait and see what happens when the bids come in.”

As for Altoona and its Act 47 distress recovery plan, the commissioners said there isn’t much they can do.

“The county’s ability to help is limited, but we can offer our support. We can develop cooperative efforts. I am in support of those things,” Meling said.

The commissioners also addressed the issue of improving accessibility and convenience to its record-keeping system as well as municipal consolidation.

“There are 24 municipalities. Consolidation and cooperation has to be both ways. Municipalities may not want to give up their own identity,” Beam said. “I would be willing to talk to anyone who is interested in the consolidation of services, but it has to be a two-way street.”