Allegheny County reassessments stand, judge decides
By Bobby Kerlik
Published: Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 3:42 p.m.
An Allegheny County judge denied a request to reduce reassessed values for about 300,000 properties in some low-income communities, a decision that could lead to more litigation.
The ruling on Monday by Senior Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick means the county's reassessment for 2013 will stand, though appeals could change some values.
Attorney Don Driscoll, who represents homeowners who sued to force the reassessment, asked Wettick months ago to adjust values in several communities where he thinks assessments remain too high.
Driscoll, a lawyer for the nonprofit Community Justice Project, claimed the court-ordered reassessment is unfair to property owners in communities such as Braddock, Rankin, Duquesne and Wilkinsburg. He said he is considering appealing Wettick's order to the state Supreme Court or filing another lawsuit.
“We filed to obtain fair, uniform assessed values,” Driscoll said. “The (reassessment) results did not achieve what the Supreme Court required, which was a constitutional, uniform reassessment.”
Driscoll's analysis said values in areas where low-end homes are prevalent increased at a greater rate than for high-end homes in at least 22 school districts.
Wettick said the county complied with all court orders and he has no authority to consider the fairness of the assessment, except through a constitutional challenge.
“This court has no inherent authority or authority provided by legislation to otherwise consider challenges to the fairness of a countywide reassessment,” Wettick wrote. “No provisions within the assessment legislation provide for court intervention upon a showing that computer-based adjustments will produce greater uniformity.”
County Solicitor Andrew Szefi, who opposed modifying the values, said Driscoll wanted to change assessment numbers to meet his agenda.
“We're pleased with the result, to the extent it prevents the plaintiffs from attempting to reverse-engineer a particular result,” Szefi said.
County Council is set to approve County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's 4.73 millage rate for 2013, which he says is a revenue-neutral reduction from 2012's 5.69 millage rate, to offset the county's rise in overall assessed value. Under state law, taxing bodies cannot reap more than 5 percent more as a result of reassessments and must adjust tax rates.
School districts and municipalities have not yet reduced millage rates.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Letang has surgery on infected elbow
- Crosby leads Penguins to 7th straight win
- Penguins sign Zatkoff to new 2-year contract
- Florida fears even bigger python could be moving in
- Firefighters allow abandoned houseboat to go over Allegheny River dam
- Gorman: WPIAL recruits send message to Pitt
- Miners’ advocate, widow sue W.Va. agencies over safety systems
- Fake Santa Claus surprises his mother as sneaky soldier returns home early
- Secret Santa Gates delivers to aid charity
- Penguins’ Orpik: Thornton was ‘apologetic’
- Steelers’ cornerback Allen learns valuable lessons