Indiana County approves firm for conducting reassessment
The Indiana County Commissioners last week settled on a provider for the county's massive property tax reassessment project in what commissioner chairman Rodney Ruddock called “probably the most important decision the county commissioners have made in 10 years.”
At the recommendation of the county's eight-member selection committee, headed by the county's chief assessor Frank Sisko, the commissioners voted unanimously on May 15 to enlist Evaluator Services and Technologies of Middletown to perform the first countywide reassessment since 1968.
“It is an important decision for the people of Indiana County,” Ruddock said. “We want to do it right. We committed to the fact that this board of commissioners would do it right, and we will do it right. And it's only because we have the right group of people out there that are helping us.”
Sisko said EST's proposal met the committee's checklist of requirements and budgetary restraints.
“Our recommendation is based on several factors, including the ability to provide a (computer-assisted mass appraisal) system that county employees will be able to operate in the future, the ability to implement a ‘Clean and Green' program, the vendor's familiarity with Pennsylvania law, willingness to employ local workers and bottom-line pricing,” he said.
The ‘Clean and Green' program will help keep assessments for agricultural property in line with assessed valuations for other types of properties.
“We need to protect those landowners, those agricultural ingredients of Indiana County... to make sure that they're treated fairly in this reassessment process through the ‘Clean and Green' program,” Ruddock said.
EST's proposal lists a cost to the county of $51.77 per parcel. Sisko said the county is negotiating a contract with EST and that per-parcel figure has not yet been approved.
Tyler Technologies, with 26 offices nationwide, offered the only other response to the county's request for proposals and listed a cost of $56.62 per parcel. The project is set to reassess the values of the county's 48,288 taxable properties beginning June 1.
The data-collection, -entry and -analysis phases of the project are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, followed by notifications of change-of-assessment in the summer of 2015, a period for formal appeals, value certification in November of 2015 and, finally, implementation of the new assessed values in tax-collection calculations at the start of 2016.
In related action, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve an agreement with Walter Stanley Realty to lease a suite in Townplace Victoria, in downtown Indiana, through June 2015 at a cost of $5,322 per month for EST to use as office space during the reassessment.
The commissioners also approved a pair of contracts relating to the county's housing needs and authorized two groups to file applications for 2013 Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement funds for construction of proposed senior housing projects.
The county board unanimously approved a contract agreement with Mullin & Lonergan Associates, Inc., of Pittsburgh, in the amount of $49,620 to have the firm undertake the Indiana County Housing Plan from June 1 through March 31, 2014. The plan is intended to describe gaps between housing supply and demand and identify housing trends.
Commissioners also unanimously approved a contract with the state's Department of Community and Economic Development for $550,000 in HOME Program funds.
Most of the funds will be used for construction and administrative costs for the Indiana County Homeless Veterans' Housing Project with the remaining $50,000 in operating funds to be used by the Northern Cambria County Development Corporation for operational expenses following construction of the veterans' housing project.
In other business, the commissioners unanimously:
• Approved a loan of $250,000 from the county revolving loan fund to Fabin Brothers Farms, LLC and Fabin Brothers Holdings, LLC to help the Center Township farm expand its corn storage facilities.
• Appointed Irene Mergen of Indiana to the Armstrong-Indiana Behavioral and Developmental Health Program Advisory Board for a term to expire Dec. 31, 2015.
• Approved an agreement between the Local Emergency Planning Committee and the Department of Labor & Industry in which the Department of Labor & Industry would provide no-cost management of data for companies required to report on chemicals they handle.
• Accepted a four-year contract with the county's 22 employees who are members of the Pennsylvania Social Services Union. The contract keeps those employees' health-care contribution levels at 10 percent with pay raises of 2 percent the first year, 2.5 percent each of the next two years and 3 percent the final year.
• Appointed Republicans Darla Coble, Phylis Spicher, Stacy Golinsky and Mary E. Haberl and Democrats Margaret Preite, Margaret J. Karp, Margaret E. Karp and Kim Fatula to the county return board.
• Approved a supplemental reimbursement agreement allowing $10,000 in funds budgeted for engineering on the Dixon Run Bridge project to be transferred into the project's budget for utilities.
• Proclaimed May as Foster Care Month, Rivers Month, National Bike Month and Mental Health Awareness Month.
The commissioners' next regular meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Their subsequent meeting will be on June12.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or email@example.com.