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Officials propose way to counter reassessment woes

| Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh officials asked a judge Tuesday to set temporary land values for residential properties, charging that the reassessments done by Sabre Systems & Services Inc. have wreaked havoc on the city's tax structure.

Attorneys asked that land values be set at 15 percent of overall property values. Currently, land values represent about 21 percent of the city's overall property value of $13.3 billion.

Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. set a deadline of noon Monday for Ohio-based Sabre Systems to explain in writing its methods for setting land values.

The city taxes land at six times the rate at which it taxes buildings, leading to fears of huge increases in tax bills as a result of the first countywide reassessment in 20 years.

Wettick asked why the city waited until now to register its complaint. Ronald Pferdehirt, assistant city solicitor, responded that Sabre Systems only turned over a breakdown of land values this month. Until then, only one figure showing land and building values combined was available.

Pferdehirt said the city wants the 15 percent value for one year only, to allow Allegheny County time to make appropriate changes for the 2002 tax year.

Wettick appeared closer to a decision involving a class action lawsuit that claims the county, Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Public Schools tax rates for 2001 will exceed a 5 percent cap on property tax income in the year following the reassessment. Wettick accepted final oral and written comments and scheduled a meeting in his chambers at 9 a.m. today.

Anthony Todd Carlisle can be reached at acarlisle@tribweb.com or (412) 765-2312.

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