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Councilman Introduces Bill To Reform Property Assessment Appeals

City Councilman Dan Gilman wants to change the way Pittsburgh does property assessment appeals, to ensure property owners are taxed fairly -- even at the expense of the city.  

He said the city will target homeowners with an appeal letter within just a month or two of closing on their home, and said the city wins 90 percent of the appeals attempting to increase property taxes. Gilman said, that’s because the city has the expertise, but a homeowner in most cases needs to hire an attorney.

Gilman’s legislation would mean the city couldn’t try to change a property’s assessed value within two years of its purchase. It would also limit appeals to once every three years.

“Some of these things are not in the best financial interest of the city, but I think in the long term having a fair and balanced tax structure, and treating your property owners with respect and fairness is good for the city’s long-term financial health as population will grow," Gilman said. "Particularly compared to what we currently do in losing people to the suburbs.”

He said the city should appeal property assessments that would lower the value of a property, and therefore the taxes the city receives, as well.

Gilman’s bill also calls for the city to design a system to select properties to appeal based on comparable values rather than sales alone. The bill will be proposed at next week’s council meeting.

Gilman said there is no equivalent of double jeopardy in the appeals process. He said, often if the city loses an appeal, they will file again the next year, which is why his legislation calls for three years between appeals.

“And that doesn’t allow anyone to have any long-term financial planning. And, again, it’s just completely unfair for someone who goes through all the time and trouble and taking off of work and possibly hiring a lawyer to fight this to just get another letter the next year," he said. 

The resolution also calls for the Director of Finance to draft policies and procedures to create an equitable property assessment appeal process.

Gilman said he has support from the Mayor and has received a favorable reaction from other council members.

The legislation will be proposed to council at next week’s meeting.