County study up for reassessment review

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A study concluding that Blair County should move forward with its first reassessment since 1958 will be up for review when commissioners meet this morning at the courthouse.

Study authors, who made a public presentation last week that offered their conclusions and some information, said a final report and more details would be forthcoming.

That report has been received and will be on today’s agenda for the commissioners’ acceptance, Chief Clerk Helen Schmitt said Monday.

Commissioners are set to meet at 10 a.m. in the public meeting room in the courthouse basement.

All meetings are open to the public, with time allotted near the beginning of the meeting for public comment on agenda-related items.

The study authors, certified property evaluator Dominick Gambino of Wexford and attorney Janet Burkardt of Pittsburgh, said last week that they reviewed 5,000 Blair County property sales since 2011. Through their evaluation and a comparison of properties selling for similar prices, they identified a wide lack of equity with assessed values assigned to properties and the taxes being paid. To address that, they recommended reassessment and said it was long overdue.

“It’s like paying your earned income tax on your 1958 salary,” Gambino said.

If commissioners move forward with reassessment efforts to address the variances, those familiar with the process say it’s typical that a third of the property owners will see their taxes go up, a third will see theirs go down and the remaining third will see little or no change.

Gambino, a former property assessments manager for Allegheny County, told commissioners his evaluation of Blair County’s information offers many arguments in favor of reassessment.

“If I were this person here,” Gambino said in reference to the highest property tax evaluation ratio on a chart of Tyrone properties, “I’d be saying where has reassessment been since 1958?”

The property owner at the other end of the chart, however, has benefited from the county’s lack of reassessment.

Commissioners voted in January to pay $7,000 to Weiss, Burkardt and Kramer LLC for the study evaluating the fairness of the county’s property assessments. The law firm, which specializes in property tax cases, is currently serving as a consultant to Indiana County, which is going through its first reassessment since 1968.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.