Assessment appeal satellite hearing sites overbooked
PITTSBURGH: As the appointments for property assessment appeals hearings fill up at the satellite suburban sites, some Allegheny County property owners are getting frustrated.
The suburban hearings, organized to make it easier for disabled property owners and the elderly to appeal the county's 2002 assessments, can be difficult to schedule.
Allegheny County Councilman Rick Schwartz, D-Plum, complained to county administrators that he has taken calls from the elderly, people with sick children and others who cannot make it downtown for a hearing.
The county's director of administrative services, Norm Mekkelsen, told Schwartz he can make arrangements for any property owner for whom it truly is a hardship to travel downtown.
"We will certainly take those cases into consideration," Mekkelsen said. "But it's the 20-year-old guy who just doesn't want to take the time that we're not making considerations for."
With about 70,000 assessment appeals to process by the end of the year, the county has scheduled the bulk of the cases at the County Office Building at Ross Street and Forbes Avenue, downtown.
The department can handle only about 1,350 hearings during each of the two-week sessions at suburban sites, so those appointments must be reserved for property owners who have a genuine hardship, county officials have said. Many of the appointments for hearings Oct. 7-11 and Oct 15-18 in Harmar and Aug. 5-9 and Aug. 12-16 at the Boyce campus of the community college in Monroeville already are booked.
"If I have a real hardship case, I can work something out," Mekkelsen said.
Although she isn't elderly or disabled, Mary Grace Guiliano, who works in Plum, would like to appeal the assessment of some vacant land she owns in Penn Hills. Since she doesn't drive and can't afford to take time off work, however, Guiliano likely will let the appeal slide, she said.
"If they don't give me an east suburban location, I'm not going to fight it and that's not fair," she said.
"Why should I waste an 8-hour day?" Guiliano said. A downtown hearing would mean taking a day off work, finding a ride downtown and buying lunch, Guiliano said. All of which she cannot afford, she said.
Mekkelsen said he will try to find a suburban site appointment for any property owner with a real difficulty. Callers should make clear why they cannot schedule an appointment downtown, he said.
"We always overbook, because we know there are people who won't show up," he said. "We'll work it out."