It’s high time to reassess

We see no need to panic over the Blair County commissioners’ plan to initiate the first property reassessment since 1958.

It’s a process that takes place over time, and commissioners seem to be moving step-by-step toward what they hope will be a job well done.

In December, we reported that Blair County was closer than ever to reassessment.

From the county’s 2014 budget, spending practices and current tax levy, we concluded that commissioners were heading toward a financial barrier leaving them nowhere to turn for operating revenue.

At Tuesday’s weekly commissioners’ meeting, Finance Director Robert Kuntz provided a presentation enumerating what the county faces, in the form of budgetary projections through 2017.

Based on Kuntz’s numbers, commissioners will need the maximum 30-mill real estate general fund tax levy in 2015 and 2016, along with reserve funds, to make those annual budgets balance.

But at the end of 2016, if Kuntz’s projections are accurate, the county will have $1.3 million in reserve, and that won’t be enough to balance the 2017 budget.

So the county will be stuck.

While some will disagree and say commissioners can slash expenses, that’s not necessarily the answer for a local government responsible for a prison, a court system, a child welfare agency, a 911 emergency communications system and additional departments that operate for the benefit and safety of local residents.

While the county’s financial picture and spending practices are always subject to review, debate and sometimes criticism, we can think of nothing to be gained by continuing to avoid reassessment.

In fact, because commissioners have waited so long to tackle reassessment, their backs are up against the wall on a process requiring a significant amount of time to compile information and calculate new values for every property in Blair County.

Since 1958 when the last assessment was done in Blair County, properties have changed, communities have changed, and there’s no way county leaders can guarantee that property owners are being taxed fairly.

So it’s time for everyone to find out, through reassessment, if their property is assessed too high, too low or just right.

For that reason and for financial reasons, commissioners need to keep moving toward reassessment.

It’s the right thing to do.