Blair urged to appeal values

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County commissioner is urging municipal and school district leaders to follow Hollidaysburg’s example of appealing undervalued property assessments.

Of the 627 appeals filed this year with the Blair County Tax Assessment office, Hollidaysburg Borough submitted 18, asking the county to assign higher assessed values reflective of property sale prices. Assessed values are used for calculating municipal, school district and county real estate tax bills.

Hollidaysburg’s pursuit is one that other municipalities and school districts should consider, Commissioner Terry Tomassetti said Tuesday at the weekly commissioners meeting.

Under Pennsylvania law, municipalities and school districts, along with property owners, have the option of filing an annual appeal with the county when a property’s assessed value isn’t reflective of its actual value.

Hollidaysburg Borough Council, in late 2016, recognized that some properties were selling for more than the assessed value assigned through the county’s most recent reassessment project that assigned new values for use in calculating 2017’s real estate taxes.

So at the suggestion of Councilman Sean Burke, council agreed that the borough would start filing appeals when residential and commercial properties sold for more than 15 percent above their assessed values. Council agreed to exclude properties of less than $50,000 from the process.

Tomassetti commended Burke and council for the pursuit.

“An across-the-board use of this option by our seven school districts and over 20 municipalities could very well have a significant effect on maintaining equity and consistency in assessed values of properties across Blair County,” Tomassetti said.

Bruce Erb, chairman, also commended the borough’s pursuit.

“If nothing else, it promotes fairness,” Erb said.

One of the reasons commissioners initiated the most recent countywide reassessment project, the first since 1958, was based on the premise that, because of outdated property assessments, some owners

were paying more and others were paying less than their fair share of property taxes.

As the reassessment project commenced, county leaders acknowledged that the project was long overdue and they spoke of the need, once the project was finished, to regularly update property assessments.

Tomassetti, Erb and fellow Commissioner Ted Beam Jr. agreed Tuesday that updating assessments is a future task.

“This current board of commissioners isn’t moving in that direction,” Erb said.

Tomassetti said he is on record in favor of conducting a reassessment every eight years.

But if the municipalities and school districts follow Hollidaysburg’s example, that could delay the county’s need to update assessed values, Tomassetti said. And it could reduce the county’s future cost of updating assessed values or reassessment, he added, because more property records would be up-to-date through the appeal process.

“It will take fortitude on the part of these (municipal and school district) elected officials to act in such a fashion,” Tomassetti said. “But fairness and equity compel such a course of action.”