Reassessing becoming only option for county

Blair County boards of commissioners have been kicking the proverbial can down the road for decades on the issue of reassessment.

However, there might soon be no more “pavement” on which to continue kicking that “can.” The county is heading toward a financial barrier providing virtually nowhere to turn to increase revenue.

Some county residents might consider such an ominous prediction beyond belief, since capable leaders have been successful so far in keeping the county’s financial head above water.

But the county is facing the troubling prospect of reaching its taxing limit, possibly as early as 2015.

There are two reasons why past boards of commissioners have avoided reassessment, allowing woefully outdated 1958 assessments to remain untouched. The main reason is because reassessment is a political hot potato; the second reason is the steep cost of a full reassessment – possibly more than $3.25 million for this county.

Property owners’ reaction to the prospect of reassessment, while understandable, ignores important considerations.

For example, property owners paying taxes based on the long-outdated 1958 assessments never would agree to sell their properties now based that their value 55 years ago. They shouldn’t expect to be taxed based on long-outdated assessment numbers either.

It’s true that the product of reassessment can be higher property taxes for some people, but that doesn’t mean the increases would be exorbitant. County officials still would have the obligation to control costs.

Reassessment’s main benefit would be to give county leaders a more flexible financial window in which to do the people’s work.

Higher assessed values would allow the county – as well as municipalities and school districts – to lower their millage rates.

As reported in a Mirror article on Sunday, the current commissioners do not plan to increase the current general fund millage rate of 27.495 for 2014, but that’s possible only because of the intent to use $1.8 million in reserve funds.

There is no endless supply of reserve money, however, and the county must retain some reserve revenue for unanticipated emergencies.

If all reserve money has been spent, the county is at its taxing limit because of the failure to reassess, and incoming revenue remains insufficient, slashing the current level of county services will be the only option available.

Blair leaders must start educating county residents about why a reassessment is necessary and fair and, at the same time, begin exploring ways to finance it.

Kicking reassessment down the road anymore is unacceptable.