Letter to the editor: Taxpayers deserve free county information
Since 2001, the Allegheny County website has provided property owners with valuable information regarding their properties. The popular site is transparent and has kept the system honest. While not available to the public, the internal county database costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual maintenance and upgrades. The public website contains less information than what county officials and the county appeals board use on a daily basis. It's time to add some additional features to the free website.
When taxing bodies file appeals on new home-buyers, sales comparables are presented by taxing district attorneys at appeals hearings. The property owner is at a disadvantage because tax dollars provide the county appeal hearing officer and school district attorneys more evidence.
The county must level the playing field in the appeals process and provide taxpayers with more “free” information. For example: Many assessment websites around the country offer a free sales search. This field would assist taxpayers with research for appeal hearings instead of paying someone else to do it. In fact, in 2000, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald wanted the then-home rule government to offer the sales search to the public.
Over 7,300 appeal hearings are being scheduled now. It's time for Allegheny County to upgrade the free site. It's the right thing to do.
The writer, an assessment consultant, is a former manager of Allegheny County's Office of Property Assessments.