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Real estate revalue appeals await Allegheny County homeowners

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Allegheny County home­owners would get a chance this year to appeal their real estate assessments if the county executive has his way.

Executive Rich Fitzgerald asked County Council to allow property owners to appeal assessed values until April 1. Typically, property owners are not eligible to file appeals during the year that an assessment takes effect.

“You want to give people every opportunity to at least make it a little bit easier,” Fitzgerald said.

The county reassessed roughly 600,000 residential and commercial properties in 2012 for 2013 taxing purposes under a state Supreme Court order. Fitzgerald opposed the reassessment.

More than 100,000 appeals filed in 2012 challenge the new values. People who did not appeal last year would have to wait until 2014, unless council approves Fitzgerald's plan.

“A lot of people can't afford these assessments,” said Patricia Colello, 72, of White Oak, who said she might take advantage of a 2013 appeal for a vacant lot near her home. Its value rose from $12,000 to $26,000, and her appeal last year left that unchanged.

“Yes, if there's a chance we could do something, we certainly would do it,” Colello said. “The question is: Do we want to go into that extra cost (to appeal) and then lose?'”

Fitzgerald's idea appeared to garner some backing on council.

“I would support it,” said Councilman Vince Gastgeb, R-Bethel Park. “The system has been so convoluted. We've been overrun with appeals.”

The county's Board of Property Assessments and Review has 92 hearing officers.

Councilman Bill Robinson, who chairs council's budget and finance committee, said he would wait to hear more before making up his mind.

“I'm not sure extending these appeals is the right thing or the wrong thing. It might solve immediate concerns,” said Robinson, D-Hill District.

The appeals process sparked a lawsuit this week. The owners of nine homes sued the county and the appeals board, claiming that hearing officers are improperly ignoring certified appraised values that property owners present as evidence.

County solicitor Andrew Szefi said the Law Department is reviewing the lawsuit and its allegations. He declined to comment.

A hearing is expected on Jan. 18.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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