Somerset County Commissioners have rejected a request from the Shade-Central City School District that could have forced the county to launch a multi-million dollar property reassessment process.
Looking to increase revenue from coal parcels, the district first asked that the county reassess the value of the coal parcels within its boundaries using a different method than is currently used by the county. That request was rejected by a judge who ruled the Pennsylvania constitution would not allow for the properties within the district to be taxed differently from those in the rest of Somerset County.
The district then asked the county to change its methodology for assessing all coal reserves. The county commissioners this week rejected that request saying the current system is adequate and that any change would force the county to launch a full property reassessment including the values of every home and business in Somerset County.
President Commissioner John Vatavuk said such an assessment would cost the county $2-3 million.
“That’s something the county just doesn’t have the money for right now,” he said.
The county has not been reassessed since 1998.
Shade-Central City School District officials did not return numerous calls for comment, but Vatavuk said he has heard that other districts are not supporting the Shade-Central efforts.
“There are 11 school districts in the county and if they aren’t on board with you’re kind of out there on an island by yourself,” Vatavuk said.
The district could take the matter to court to either challenge the county’s current mineral rights assessment methodology or to ask for a countywide reassessment.
Vatavuk does not think the district would get much support for either effort.
“One school superintendent and one school board president said that with the condition of the coal industry the way it is right now the last thing they want to do is make it harder for the coal companies to survive in the county,” Vatavuk said.
If the matter goes to court Vatavuk believes it will be years before a final decision is made.