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Allegheny County reassessments drag on

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Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011

Allegheny County's first batch of property reassessment notices won't arrive in time for Christmas.

Officials acknowledged another delay during a morning status conference with Common Pleas Senior Judge R. Stanton Wettick, who is overseeing the court-ordered, $11 million reassessment.

The property value notices will be mailed Dec. 27 to property owners in Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver. Wettick already allowed a delay in mailing the notices out, from Wednesday to next Monday.

Wettick is adamant that the notices be sent by year's end so financially troubled Pittsburgh may begin receiving tax revenues as soon as possible. The suburbs will come next.

It's unclear when property owners outside Pittsburgh will receive their reassessment notices or tax bills. If the suburban reassessments take too long to complete, Wettick said municipalities will have the option to send tax bills in two installments, instead of one. The first bill would collect half of the 2011 property value. The second would collect the other half, adjusted for the new 2012 values.

"It is not a desirable result," Wettick said of the two-bill approach. "That's my reason for wanting to get as many (properties) done as possible."

Wesley Graham, the county's chief assessor, said his staff encountered problems assessing commercial properties and correcting a mistake that didn't reduce values of 17,000 city properties with steep slopes. He said Christmas vacation could slow the work further.

"You may have to call my wife, your honor, if you want me to be here after Christmas," Graham said.

"Well, the county can fly you up and back," Wettick said.

Wettick wants Graham to certify the reassessment figures by Dec. 28 so property owners can begin making informal appeals in January. The judge could finalize the plan to allow the tax bill installments at another status meeting set for 10 a.m. Monday.

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