Thursday, June 18, 2009


It's Assessment Day. Unless the aftereffects of the rain disrupts things of course. Fate will probably drag this out a little bit longer.

I could go back further of course for some root causes.. but from a legal perspective this day became inevitable in January 1996. What is Larry Dunn up to these days anyway? Last we heard from from the one-time county-commissioner was that he was going to run for City Controller. As a Democrat I believe.

And for a bit of irony that only a few of us notice. The Act 47 plan being debated all while assessments are hitting the news cycle is fascinating (ok, fascinating to me). The original Act 47 plan had this little trick that virtually nobody noticed. You can go look this up if you do not believe me. One of the biggest financial innovations introduced in the original Act 47 plan was to take advantage a loophole in the law that let municipalities reap windfall revenue gains every time there is a mass reassessment of property. At the very moment the original Act 47 plan was being crafted the extant plan at the county level for reassessments was to do a mass assessment every 3 years. That plan didn't last long, but that was the state of things 5 years ago. At the time state law limited municipalities from reaping too much windfall revenue gains as property values typically get reassessed upwards. the loophole was that a windfall gain was allowed but limited to 10%. So guess what? The Act 47 plan assumed that every 3 years the property tax revenues would jump by 10%. Really. It would be funny if it were not so sad. The further irony is that at the very time the original Act 47 plan was being prepared, then County Controller and candidate for County Executive Dan O. was fighting to keep municipalities from reaping any windfall revenue gains from the reassessments. So the Act 47 plan was assuming the city would not just routinely but as a matter of policy ignore Dan O. into the future. You would point out how pathological that all was, but nobody would care much. Just too much in the fine print given how big the other problems were with the whole plan. Now I can bore the wonkerati via the internet with stories like that.

Of course that was not to happen. Neither the reassessments happened and I believe state law has been tightened to not allow the 10% windfall gain so they can't try it again. I am sure they would if they could. You can balance lots of budgets in the future that way.


Blogger EdHeath said...

It's hearing for a timetable on assessment day, yeah?

I wonder if your comment is a hint. After all, it is becoming increasingly clear that Pittsburgh will need to raise taxes no matter what, and I think a windfall on (re)assessments gives certain politicians slightly more political cover than just raising the City income tax (although I think that is coming too). If only we did not have a Mayor with the maturity of a twelve year old, he could just say we gotta raise taxes to pay for debt (stadiums) and pensions.

Thursday, June 18, 2009 8:06:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

"If only we did not have a Mayor with the maturity of a twelve year old, he could just say we gotta raise taxes to pay for debt (stadiums) and pensions."

I'm much more irked about paying more taxes for frivolities and filling a pension gap from before I was an adult than I am about the mayor having the maturity of a twelve year old.

If I were paying what I considered to be reasonable taxes and the infrastructure didn't have so many glaring defects, the mayor could give press conferences dressed a Power Ranger or wearing ass-less chaps.

Thursday, June 18, 2009 9:32:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Dragged out:

Thursday, June 18, 2009 4:47:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home