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Thousands wait for assessment appeal hearings

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

Thousands of Allegheny County property owners are waiting for the county to hear their appeals of their court-mandated reassessments, including more than 15,000 who filed within the past four months.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs said that 1,132 appeals from last year are pending before the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Reviews. More than 100,000 appeals were filed in 2012.

Homeowners filed 15,221 appeals between the beginning of the year and the April 1 deadline and are waiting to be scheduled for reviews, though that number may include “duplicate” appeals some owners filed seeking lower values and school districts or local governments seeking higher ones, Downs said. The county reopened the window for appeals in February, though property owners typically aren't allowed to appeal the year a reassessment takes effect.

Chris McElhiney was part of the most recent batch of appeals, filing on behalf of his mother, Stephanie McElhiney, 64, whose Fawn home was assessed at $80,000, up from $60,000. A neighboring house built about the same time recently sold for about $30,000, he said.

“She was diagnosed with cancer in January, she's on a fixed income. ... I guess she didn't realize it went up so much until she got her tax bill in the mail,” Chris McElhiney said. “I was really glad (for the deadline extension). Otherwise, we'd have never known about it and we'd have been stuck with the bill.”

Downtown attorney Kim Kisner said many of her clients who filed appeals this year either missed the first deadline or purchased properties last year for something vastly different from the assessed value. Those who paid less were trying to get their tax bills lowered; those who paid more found themselves defending their assessed values if their school district appealed to get a higher assessment based on the purchase price, she said.

“The first round of appeals took four or five months to come up, but I don't expect that with the second round because the volume is less,” Kisner said. “I'm telling my clients it's likely to be about three months.”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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