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Deadline nears for appeals of property reassessments

Allegheny County residents who think assessors incorrectly calculated the value of their properties have a week left to file a challenge.

Applications for a formal appeal must be postmarked or hand-delivered to the County Office Building, Downtown, by the end of the day April 2.

Some officials urge residents to appeal even if they are unsure whether they want to follow through with the process.

"Appeals can always be withdrawn, but once the deadline passes, property owners will have no other recourse to fight their court-ordered reassessments this year," county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

Allegheny County Councilman Matt Drozd, R-Ross, said he is pushing for "every property owner in the county to file an appeal even if it's just to protest the process, which I'm convinced was not done properly."

The county this month finished mailing out assessment notices to about 600,000 property owners. So far, about 29,249 people have requested formal appeals, and more than 7,000 appeal hearings have been heard, said Kevin Evanto, a spokesman for Fitzgerald.

County officials have conducted a half-dozen town-hall style meetings to help residents sort through the reassessment and appeals process. Five more sessions are scheduled, and three additional sessions are in the works.

"We have real-estate professionals, attorneys and county employees at these meetings to walk property owners through then process," Evanto said. "If somebody can't make it to one of the meetings, they can get help by going to the county website or by calling our offices."

To assist low-income senior citizens with their appeals, Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein made arrangements with 10 companies to provide appraisals for half price after "hearing from so many senior citizens who are confused and unhappy with having to go through this."

Property appraisals typically cost $300 to $400, said Weinstein, noting that the service is being offered at no cost to the county.

Property owners in the city can get help by calling the 311 help line, said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

"The reassessment is the single largest issue on residents' minds," Doven said. "We are particularly concerned about the senior citizens who are scared they will be taxed out of their homes. At the very least, we want to help make sure their assessments are accurate."

Finding help

For help challenging Allegheny County's court-ordered reassessment, including how to fill out forms and where to obtain an appraisal, call these hotline numbers or visit these Web sites:

City residents : Call the city's 311 hotline or go to www.pittsburghpa.gov

Allegheny County residents: Call 412-350-4600 or go to www.alleghenycounty.us

Low-income senior citizens: Discounted property appraisals are available through the county treasurer at 412-350-4120 or www.alleghenycounty.us

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