Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fw: Indiana County ponders 2.5M reassessment

I agree with Bob to a degree. But the way to get to the fair solution is not a full pass on all property. Rather, a better solution is to give the free pass to the buildings on the property. Do tax the land. Land can be measured. Land can be taxed.

If we have the exact same lot in size and features in the same neighborhood then the land tax would be equal.

If one builds a mansion and the other builds a shack - but the live on identical land plots -- then they would pay the same in taxes.

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From: "Bob Logue" <>
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 2010 13:24:35 -0400
To: <Undisclosed-Recipient:;><Invalid address>
Subject: Indiana County ponders 2.5M reassessment

As you read this article below, forwarded by Tom Koch, think about this: How many Indiana County, PA homeowners have lost their homes and most, or all of their equity to sheriff sales over the last 42 years for so called 'delinquent' property taxes they did not owe?  Likely thousands of Indiana County homeowners and their families have lost many millions of dollars and had their lives disrupted by corrupt property tax assessments and taxes.  The commissioners admit the property assessments are "out of balance"...which is a polite way of saying...THEY'RE WRONG and have been for decades. 

   It is a myth that if Indiana County eventually spends $2.5 Million for a countywide reassessment, this will mean the assessments will be fair and equitable.  That has not proven to be true in Philadelphia, Allegheny County, Luzerne County, Fayette County and elsewhere.  And the countywide reassessments will need to be redone every few years to comply with the Supreme Court ruling on base year assessments.  That will cost millions more over the years.

   Even the International Association of Assessment Officers (the professional organization of assessment officials) admits the inaccuracies of property taxes.  The IAAO says any assessment within 10% of fair market value is deemed correct.  However, if you and I have the same 'market value' home and you are over-assessed by 10% (by the IAAO standards of fairness) and I am under-assessed by pay 20% more school, county and municipal property taxes than I do.    You could pay hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars more each year than I do.  Is that fair and equitable? If so, are you willing to also pay 20% more income taxes on the same income as I have? Or 20% more on gasoline taxes per gallon? Or 20% more sales taxes on the same purchases as I do.  If it's unfair for you to pay 20% more than me on all the rest of those taxes, why is it fair for you to pay 20% more than me on property taxes?

   The property tax system on primary residences is systemically corrupt, unfair, inaccurate, costly and a huge drag on our economy.  The system cannot be fixed and should be totally abolished and replaced with broader-based, equitable, and less costly to collect sales and income taxes. 

   The Legislative Budget and Finance committee (the same group mentioned below) studied the STOP Primary Residence Protection plan and found it fiscally sound and viable.  You may contact them for a copy of their study. 

   The county commissioners are correct that the legislature must change the system; it can't be done by the county commissioners.  But the commissioners have a role in demanding it be done.  Your legislators have failed to correct this mess for 30 years.  So why are you going to re-elect them?

Why would any commissioners support the re-elecction of legislators who have failed so miserably on this issue for three decades?


Learn more about why it is sensible and desirable to abolish all property taxes on primary residences and how it would create an economic boom in Pennsylvania at  or  Hit on STOP.




COUNTY: Indicators show assessment system out of balance

Published: Thursday, July 15, 2010 1:20 PM EDT
Concerned about the possibility of a taxpayers' lawsuit challenging the fairness and constitutionality of property assessments, the Indiana County commissioners Wednesday retained the Ira Weiss law firm of Pittsburgh to study the county's property tax assessment structure.

The commissioners emphasized they were approving only an evaluation of the assessment system.

``It's a study of the issue, not a reassessment,'' commissioner Patricia Evanko stressed.

``We're being pro-active,'' commissioner David Frick added.

And the commissioners emphasized that a property reassessment - if one is eventually undertaken - will not generate more tax revenue. Instead, they said, it will be done to balance and redistribute the tax burden more evenly.

Indiana County chief assessor Martin Medvetz introduced his recommendation for the study with a quote from a recent state Supreme Court ruling: ``While every tax is a burden, it is more cheerfully borne when the citizen feels that he is only required to bear his proportionate share of that burden measured by the value of his property to that of his neighbor.''

``We're really studying the fairness of the taxes,'' Medvetz said. ``We want to be sure that the tax burden is distributed equitably among all taxpayers.''

The last countywide reassessment of properties in Indiana County was in 1968.

``You can't go 42 years and expect values to be the same,'' Medvetz said.The study will determine whether a countywide reassessment is necessary to bring the county into uniformity conformance standards. Medvetz and the commissioners are concerned that the county could face a court-ordered reassessment because recent statistics provided by the State Tax Equalization Board show the county's ratios are beyond those allowable under Pennsylvania's uniformity requirements.

As an example of the possible legal exposure, the Ira Weiss law firm cited the 2009 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in a taxpayers' suit against Allegheny County. The court in that case determined that the use of a base year system, without the provision of periodic reassessments, results in non-uniformity and violates the state's constitution because assessed values are frozen while properties continue appreciating or depreciating at different rates.

``This needs to be done'' in light of the state Supreme Court decision,'' Medvetz said of the study. He added that in his opinion, if the Legislature doesn't address property reassessment as a statewide issue, future court cases will probably narrow the definition and criteria of what is unconstitutional.

``We can wait for the Legislature, or wait to be sued,'' he said.

The Supreme Court ruling noted that property assessment inequities leave counties vulnerable to challenge by taxpayers or school districts demanding that property taxes be imposed uniformly. In 2007, a taxpayers group known as Fair Adams County Taxes Now sued Adams County over its property assessments, last adjusted in 1990. According to the Adams County solicitor's office, that lawsuit prompted a reassessment that has just been completed, and new assessment values will go into effect in 2011.

``Reassessment is all about equity, not revenue growth,'' Medvetz said. ``You should be paying taxes on the fair market value of your property. ... Hopefully the study will provide us with data pointing to where the property assessments are weak, what groups may be over- or under-paying ... just a number of statistics that will provide insight into what direction we need to go and the reason for it.''

Commission chairman Rodney Ruddock said the commissioners want this study conducted before making a decision on a reassessment so residents can have all necessary information.

``It would not be prudent to act without full due diligence in a matter so important to county residents,'' Ruddock said. ``We want to do something that's fair to the citizens of the county, but we don't want to do something that doesn't pass common sense'' - meaning doing something at the local level that the state Legislature may also do sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Property reassessment in counties has in the past been postponed by rumors that the Legislature was going to revamp the system on a statewide basis.

Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said Monday that statewide property reassessment is an issue that likely will be driven by the governor rather than legislators. And it may not be until after the first six months of the next administration before Pennsylvanians know if reassessment is a priority for the next governor of the state.

Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, said property assessment as a statewide project has not been discussed recently in any Republican caucus, although he is aware of some proposals in the House.

One of those, House Resolution 334, introduced last year, directed the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to ask for the assistance of the Assessors and County Commissioners Associations of Pennsylvania in conducting a study of the commonwealth's fragmented system of property tax assessments and to compare them with tax systems in other states. That study has been completed and is expected to be released later this month.

That resolution notes that Pennsylvania operates under at least five major assessment statutes, none wholly consistent with the others.

Ruddock said if the commissioners decide a property reassessment is needed, they hope to find a firm that does property reassessments that would be willing to be locked into a rate for three years or so, allowing time to see if the governor or lawmakers are going to legislatively address the reassessment issue.

Elections are next year, and Ruddock said the county commissioners could easily sit back and wait until after the election to tackle reassessment.``I don't think that's fair ... to the public,'' he said.

Indiana County has about 48,000 parcels of land, and the going rate for a reassessment, according to Medvetz, is about $50 to $55 per parcel, pushing the cost of a possible reassessment in Indiana County to about $2.5 million.

A reassessment, in Medvetz's estimation, would take about 30 months and would be followed by an additional period for appeals. Even if a reassessment was approved immediately, revised values probably would not go into effect until 2014, he said.

According to Ruddock, following a property tax reassessment, one-third of property owners typically pay lower taxes, one-third pay higher taxes and for one-third taxes remain the same.

The study by the law firm is expected to last six to eight weeks and will cost $5,000.

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