Men fear upkeep could boost taxes

Senate bill could prompt new assessed value for general maintenance, repairs

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A pair of Allegheny Township residents are urging Blair County commissioners to ask more questions about a state Senate bill with the potential to cause problems for property owners and the county.

Under Senate Bill 1006, counties would be permitted to enact an ordinance requiring notice of substantial property improvements. While the county currently receives those kind of notices via building permits submitted by municipalities, SB 1006 also gives the county the option of adopting an ordinance with rules for the submission of those building permits.

In addition, a county ordinance could require property owners to provide information about improvements for which no building permit was required.

Based on a synopsis of the proposed bill, painting and repairs would be excluded unless they increase the property’s value by more than $2,500.

Commissioners should get out in the public and talk to the property owners about what this going to mean, township resident and property owner Ron Yoder said Tuesday when he spoke to commissioners at their weekly meeting.

Yoder said he owns rental properties and if he puts on a new roof, repairs sidewalks or installs a sewer lateral, then he suspects this legislation will prompt the county to assign a new assessed value for what he considers to be maintenance.

Township resident John Kasun told commissioners that based on the way he reads the bill, property owners will have to tell the county if they’re going to replace the carpeting or install a new furnace, either of which could be basic maintenance.

“I think you’ve got the potential for all kinds of problems here that you’re not anticipating,” Kasun said.

Commissioners Chair­man Bruce Erb suggested after the commissioners meeting that Yoder and Kasun should take their concerns and questions to local legislators who will be working on SB 1006. He also suggested they talk further with Commissioner Terry Tomassetti, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Tomassetti, a few weeks ago, provided commissioners with a synopsis of SB 1006 offered as a reform measure for the state’s reassessment laws. When presenting the synopsis, Tomassetti mentioned that the bill would help the county keep track of property improvements. During Blair County’s most recent reassessment project, the process identified property changes that weren’t reflected on county records.

Tomassetti has asked fellow commissioners to go on record in support of the proposed bill, with discussion potentially scheduled for the commissioners May 29 meeting.

But before commissioners do that, Kasun recommended that they solicit more public input and consider how this bill could affect the county and its property owners.

Kasun said he has already put two home improvement projects on hold until hearing more, thereby taking work away from two contractors.

He also said the potential for higher taxes may explain why Altoona has a large number of homes with blight. A story in Sunday’s Mirror reported that of 9,300 properties in low-to-moderate income areas, a study identified 4,881 — more than half — as in need of repairs.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.