More ‘regular’ reassessment makes sense

Most Blair property owners who haven’t yet gotten over their indigestion over the first countywide reassessment in 58 years, carried out in 2016, obviously weren’t elated to learn that the county commissioners already are talking about another reassessment.

But the reality is that the commissioners are correct in addressing the possibility at this early date. It would be foolhardy for the county to wait another 20, 40 — or 58 years — having witnessed the problems with which the 2016 exercise dealt.

To hundreds, if not thousands, of property owners, their updated assessment was tantamount to shell shock.

Those same property owners wouldn’t now sell their properties at 1958 prices, but it was human nature for them to prefer being taxed at nearly six-decade-old assessment rates.

A new reassessment, as discussed on Jan. 11 at a meeting of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Club, wouldn’t produce as much controversy as the one two years ago. That’s because a reassessment conducted within a more logical — reasonable — time frame would result in less drastic changes than what the 2016 reassessment produced.

Nobody looks forward to a tax increase, or having their assessment figure increased, but all taxpayers deserve to be treated fairly. That means that a disproportionate tax burden shouldn’t be shouldered by owners of newly built homes or new or expanded business properties; all property owners should pay their fair share, based on modern, up-to-date bases of calculation.

The information that emerged at the Breakfast Club meeting was built upon that theory, as well as upon the premise of saving money over the long run.

“I am in favor of a regular reassessment or a review of whether it is needed,” said Commissioner Terry Tomassetti. “I would recommend we do it every eight years.”

He said, unlike 2016, a follow-up reassessment conducted during such a time frame could be performed in-house to avoid a financial burden on the county.

“If it were my decision, it would be done in seven or eight years,” said Commissioner Bruce Erb.

Later he pointed out that “after 58 years, we have accurate property values. Technology in our office has improved by leaps.”

He added that, with increased expertise, along with the available technology, the cost to perform the next reassessment “should plummet dramatically.”

And again, the results of that reassessment would produce much less controversy because the assessment changes would not be as large.

But they would be up to date — and for that reason, regular reassessments make sense.

Besides, with a regular schedule of reassessments established now, the burden of such a decision would be removed from future commissioners boards.

They would have to justify not having a reassessment rather than approving a new one.

Tomassetti made the good point that, although it was past boards of commissioners who steered away from pursuing reassessments, it was the anti-reassessment mood of county residents that was the foundation of the elected leaders’ non-decision.

“They (commissioners) did what the populace wanted,” he said, while admitting that he was a former reassessment opponent until he researched the issue.

After researching it, he said, he came to the conclusion that that opinion was incorrect.

Future-reassessment discussion should continue, not be relegated to some dusty shelf.