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School board rescinds decision to appeal assessments

| Thursday, April 26, 2001

The school district where the reassessment furor started is taking a step back, at least for now.

The Quaker Valley School Board has decided to rescind a Feb. 27 action that called for the district to appeal assessments on all properties in the district that were transferred from one owner to another in 2000.

The board originally decided to appeal because it feared the discrepancy between the purchase price and assessed value of a number of homes could cause the district to lose more than $1,000 in revenue from each property owner.

The district planned to appeal the reassessments of 54 properties that sit in the Quaker Valley community. On Tuesday, the board's eight members voted 4-3 to rescind the appeals.

Members David Ciesinski, Joan Murdoch, Thomas Patton and board President Gregory Smith voted to rescind the action. Nancy Chalfant-Walker, Florence Iwler and Marianne Wagner voted to continue the appeals. Board member Louise Norris abstained.

'Sometimes the hard and right thing to do is thoughtfully wait,' Ciesinski said. 'I think we should postpone any action until some of this shakes out.'

Iwler, though, disagreed and argued that Quaker Valley should continue to appeal certain properties that were transferred in 2000.

'I haven't believed in Santa Claus since I was 3 years old,' Iwler said. 'I don't see Sabre (Systems & Service Inc.) or the county stepping in.'

Sabre Systems & Service Inc. completed the court-ordered $24 million reassessment of more than 552,000 properties in the county last year.

Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. ordered the countywide reassessment in April 1997 after striking down an assessment freeze enacted in January 1996.

He based his order on a lawsuit opposing the freeze that was filed by property owners in the Quaker Valley School District.

While the board discussed the appeal issue among themselves for about 30 minutes, residents did get their chance to comment on the matter at Tuesday's meeting.

Some of the taxpayers said they were in favor of the board pursuing the appeal process, while others said it would be unfair to single out new homeowners.

'I walk out my door and look to my left and my right,' said John Walker, who moved to Bell Acres from the West Coast about one year ago. 'My home is assessed at 50 percent more than my neighbors.

'Don't tax the few that come into your community.'

Some residents were not as angry about their reassessment as they were worried about the expensive homes that were underassessed.

'Nobody is trying to get out of their tax bill,' Gretchen Kosbie said. 'We are trying to make sure it is done fairly.'

A Tribune-Review study earlier this year showed that Sabre's assessments met industry standards for consistency in 27 of 43 school districts in the county. And in the county as a whole, Sabre's assessments are within industry guidelines.

However, the Tribune-Review study found that properties in the Quaker Valley School District were among the most underassessed in the county.

While the board on Tuesday halted plans for appeals, members did pass a motion reserving the right to begin the appeal process again.

Resident Michelle Dobbs said if the board does decide to appeal any reassessments, they should appeal all reassessments that could cost the district more $1,000 in revenue, not just the ones in 2000.

'(The board should) take responsibility and go after everyone,' Dobbs said. 'Don't cherry pick. ... How can you hold me accountable and not my neighbors•

'(It would be) pitting neighbors against neighbors.'

Dominick DiRienzo can be reached at ddirienzo@tribweb.com or (724) 779-7124.

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