Monday, August 28, 2006

groundhog day in the assessment office

Catching up on some news items from last week. Something that got some attention, but which could have a big impact across the state is the news about Judge Wettick scheduling hearings on the constutionality of current property assessment system in use. My take is that this is all an exercise to get this case moved quickly to appeals and possibly directly to the state supreme court. Worth keeping an eye on.

I understand some may question the importance of historical context in current debates.. nonetheless, it's really hard to understand the current issues in the current property tax debates without appreciating how we have arrived at this point. I like to point out what I consider the most comprehensive study of Allegheny County assessment system ever completed... The problem is that it was done in 1976.. This report is:

Report of Committee to Study and Report on Assessment Practices, Procedures and Policies in Allegheny County. Otherwise known as the Jaffurs Report. by Joseph D'Anna, Robert Gaitens, John McAllister, Edward L. Ivory, Donald J. Lee, Alexander J. Jaffurs, Richard Longini, Gordon Mulleneaux, Emerson G. Hess. June 1976. (Warning, that link will give you the file, but its a really large file scanned from paper.)

So this has been going on a long time. Many if not most of the problems still being dealt with were idenifed back then. Various solutions were proposed, but few fully implemented for a long time if ever. The saddest thing I found in it was an explanation that even inthe late 1970's, the record keeping was abysmal. For example, the only graphic documention on most parcels were Works Progress Administration (WPA) line drawings from the depression. No joke.

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