Blair reassessment to cost $3.34M

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County will pay $3.34 million for the first countywide property reassessment since 1958.

Commissioners said Tuesday that they were satisfied with the negotiated price to have 65,444 parcels surveyed and assessed by Evaluator Services and Technology Inc. of Greensburg, the company commissioners selected to handle the task.

The amount calculates to $51 per parcel, reflecting a discount EST Inc. allowed because Blair County previously paid $97,857 to EST for software licenses to support a certified assessment and mass appraisal system. Otherwise, the per parcel cost would have been $52.51.

Commissioners, who hired Pittsburgh attorney Janet Burkardt to negotiate a fee and the contract details, said they were satisfied with the amount. Burkardt is familiar with the reassessment process and will be advising commissioners on EST’s performance during the reassessment process.

Commissioner Diane Meling recalled that when commissioners spoke eight years ago of pursuing reassessment, the cost at that time was estimated to be in a range of $3 million to $4 million.

“Here it eight years later and we’re still in that range,” Meling said. “Yet we know how costs of some things have changed and increased during that time.”

Commissioner Ted Beam Jr. said he also felt that the negotiated price is fair, based on what he, Meling and fellow county commissioner Terry Tomassetti saw when they traveled a few weeks ago to Indiana County to see the steps taken toward reassessment.

“That trip to Indiana benefited us,” Beam said. “We saw how much work is involved. It is a massive undertaking.”

EST Inc. owner Gene Porterfield said Tuesday that he already notified Blair County CareerLink that his company will be hiring 40 to 50 field data collectors starting at $10 per hour, who must have a driver’s license, dependable transportation and pass a background check.

Those hired will be entered into a training program and, depending on their skill levels, could remain employed for up to 2 years in Blair County.

Commissioners said anyone interested in this work should inquire through CareerLink because the field data collectors will be EST employees.

Meling also stressed that the field data collectors will not be calculating property values or assessments. Porterfield said that task will be handled by certified evaluators.

The new contract also calls for EST Inc. to set up its own reassessment office, in or near Hollidaysburg. While the county will cover the cost of leased space, EST Inc. will take care of the equipment and staffing.

The contract also spells out a payment system for the county to cover the cost of reassessment, with $960,493 due by the end of 2014.

Finance Director Bob Kuntz, who looked into the benefits of using a loan or a bond issue to pay for reassessment, previously advised commissioners that a loan would be the faster alternative. Kuntz also said that the county’s debt payments are scheduled to drop in 2017 so revenue from the current debt tax levy would be available to cover payments toward a debt incurred for reassessment.