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Attorneys decry removal of Allegheny County assessment website

| Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 12:10 a.m.

Allegheny County property owners who want to appeal their latest tax assessments no longer can find their previous assessments online — the county removed the older figures, leading some attorneys to complain.

“It's a lot easier for taxing bodies if they know what the history is,” said attorney John Vogel, who represents several school districts and some homeowners who are appealing reassessments. “It's guidance.”

County officials last week took down the website showing the 2012 figures. The reassessment website shows the new, reassessed values being used for 2013.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs said property owners can request the missing information online, and county officials will email it to them.

“We made the changes to the county website because having both years up was causing confusion for property owners. Property owners can request the prior year's information through a link on the website or by contacting the Office of Property Assessment,” Downs said.

Downs said no property owners have complained to her office or the Office of Property Assessments.

The county and the Board of Viewers are processing more than 100,000 appeals filed in 2012 as a result of the court-ordered property reassessment. The county reassessed about 600,000 residential and commercial properties in 2012 for 2013 taxing purposes under a state Supreme Court order.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald approved legislation that allows property owners to appeal in 2013.

Attorney Noah Fardo said that while the county allows homeowners to request 2012 data, it's not easy for attorneys who handle hundreds of assessment appeals to email the county for each case.

“There's still a lot of base-year appeals being decided. None of the attorneys have all the information they need unless they keep that information up,” said Fardo, whose firm filed about 1,000 appeals of assessments. “When you're negotiating the 2013 appeals with a lot of school districts, knowing the prior assessment is crucial.”

Nearly every step of the property assessment has been contentious. Last month, the judge overseeing the reassessment rejected a request to compel the county to accept homeowner-provided certified appraisals as definitive evidence of their property values.

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

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