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Washington County Hopes to Delay Reassessment Even Longer

Washington County's Commissioners plan to appeal Common Pleas President Judge Debbie O'Dell Seneca's ruling ordering property reassessment in the county. They have until December 15 to appeal the decision.

Commissioner Diana L. Irey said that the county wants to avoid reassessment because the process is outdated.

"The state of Pennsylvania has a system of assessment that bases everything on a base-year ratio, and that system doesn't work," Irey said. "When you have a reassessment or an assessment done within three to five years after it's completed, you are already out of the fair factor that is established by the state tax equalization board."

The state legislature passed a moratorium on reassessments on June 30, but Governor Tom Corbett vetoed it because the bill's language applied only to Washington County, which he said is unconstitutional.

Irey fears that reassessment would be too expensive and too long to justify while the legislature is actively looking for a new method of reassessment.

"For three years, you're going to have the legislature trying to come up with a new system," Irey said. "So to spend $8 million on a process that's going to take three years to complete, while, during that time, you may have a whole new system that's legislated, it just doesn't make any sense."

McGuffey and Washington school districts are suing the county to force reassessments, believing that would lead to higher home values and more tax revenues.

Irey said that she is looking out for her constituents, many of whom fear unfair reassessments.

"The public's afraid of the reassessment. When you have an independent group come and look at the effects of a reassessment, usually they tell you it's going to break down into a third of the people will see an increase in their property taxes, a third will see a decrease, and a third will remain the same," Irey said. "But that's not what happened in Allegheny County, and I don't think that is what's going to happen in any county."

Allegheny County is under a separate court order to complete a reassessment for the 2012 tax year.

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