Blair to designate more members to hear appeals

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County has received more than 1,200 appeals this year from property owners who want to challenge the values assigned to their properties for computing 2018’s real estate taxes.

Based on the amount of appeals, the county salary board agreed to designate as many as 12 appeal board members and as many as six alternates.

So far this year, the county has been relying on Richard Moran, James Crawford and Linda Smith, previously appointed to the county’s assessment appeals board, to hear property appeals filed after last year’s deadline.

But due to the large number of appeals right before the Aug. 1 deadline, Chief Assessor Deanna Heichel told the salary board that help is needed to evaluate the appeals at hearings to be scheduled in September and October.

“Aside from last year’s reassessment, it’s far more than we’d get in an average year,” Commissioner Terry Tomassetti told fellow salary board members.

But 1,200 appeals, Commissioner Ted Beam Jr. added, would not be unanticipated in a year following a reassessment.

Plans call for setting up four boards to conduct appeal hearings, one main one and three auxiliary boards. Tomassetti said compensation for each board member will be set at $150 for a full day and $75 for a half day.

Unlike last year’s appeal hearings that were set up at the Blair County Convention Center, county leaders said they expect this year’s appeals will be scheduled at the courthouse, probably in a conference room on the second floor or if necessary, in a portion of the public meeting room in the courthouse basement.

Commissioners, as they did last year, are expected to vote on a list of people who will serve on the boards and as alternates.

Last year’s selection prompted some criticism from property owners who pointed to the board members’ lack of knowledge about real estate and real estate values.

Commissioners countered that they chose people who were capable of evaluating information and offering a fair recommendation. Those who remained unhappy had the choice of appealing to court, an option that will again be available after this year’s hearing.

While Heichel initially suggested naming three alternates to help this year’s boards, she and the salary board members agreed with naming as many as six alternates who can fill in when other board members are not available. Last year, some board hearings were conducted with only two of its three members which also drew criticism from unhappy property owners.

The salary board also agreed with the appointment of a full-time temporary administrator to work in the assessment office for up to six months who will be assigned to manage this year’s appeals. The compensation for that position is set at $15 per hour.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.