BEDFORD - With a few extra guests and a TV news camera looking on, Bedford County commissioners on Tuesday pushed forward the county's second reassessment in three years.
The county now awaits the appeals phase - the last step before taxpayers' new property values are finalized and the court-ordered reassessment is completed.
"The numbers are in," Commissioner Chairman Kirt Morris said. "The preliminary [data] are looking very good."
New values are slated for mailing this week, Morris said.
The new values, retooled since their last release in 2009, will dictate residents' property taxes in the years to come. Overall values appear slightly lower than in 2009, Commissioner Steven Howsare said Monday, but changes generally vary from property to property.
The commissioners voted Tuesday to pay Duncansville-based MailPro Inc. $17,695 to conduct the values' mass mailing, which is set to cover some 32,000 properties.
Mark your calendar
Each year, property owners can appeal their assessed values during the following dates, which are set by Pennsylvania law. Some dates fall on weekends, so county offices may shift them. The following are key deadlines for Bedford County's reassessment
This week: New property values are mailed
July 15: Appeal hearings begin
Sept. 1: Deadline for appeal requests
Oct. 31: Last day for appeal hearings
November: Commissioners vote to approve final assessment for 2013
MailPro's contract, covering printing, mailing and postage, is far below the roughly $35,000 price ceiling the commissioners had initially set.
The appeals process begins July 15, a little more than a week after most property owners are set to receive their new values. Landowners who feel their assessments are inaccurate have until Sept. 1 to submit requests.
The commissioners tightened appeal rules from last year - and the last assessment - in an attempt to avoid irregularities, Morris said.
No longer will county officials accept so-called "informal appeals," in which property owners can casually explain their complaint and see a correction soon after, Morris said. Instead, property owners this year must fill out a formal appeal form available at the county's offices.
"Everything will be handled through the appeal board so we can all see it, touch it, feel it," Morris said.
Professional appraisals, while not required, will be important in securing assessment reductions, the commissioners said.
Hoping to avoid the confusion that plagued the 2009 reassessment, commissioners on Tuesday explained the entire process and key dates for taxpayers to remember: Appeal requests must be received by Sept. 1, and hearing dates will be scheduled until Oct. 31.
By Nov. 13, the commissioners will vote to set all assessments in stone for the 2013 tax year, they said.
Because Pennsylvania reassessments must be revenue-neutral - in essence, providing no extra tax money for the county - tax rates will almost certainly shift by next year.
Answering audience questions at the Tuesday meeting, Morris suggested there's reason to feel better about this reassessment than its predecessor. The county's first property shift since the 1950s, the 2009 reassessment provoked mass appeals, across-the-board value changes and lawsuits from school districts before a judge ordered a second round.
"We're very optimistic," Morris said to Terry Chalfant, a county tax activist.
"That's called positive thinking," Chalfant said, laughing.
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.