Monday, January 30, 2012

a thud-less Monday morning?

So roughly a quarter of Allegheny County had new assessment numbers that arrived in the mail Friday and Saturday.  I am personally hoping that the lack of headlines and/or other rhetoric constitutes..... I dunno....  progress?  Could it be?

One big important point based on questions I am getting.   Realize that virtually every number that has been talked about thus far, by me, in the media, and all others, have been about the assessment data out there for ONLY the City of Pittsburgh and the borough otherwise known as Mount Oliver

So everything you have read about the notional tax issues and revenue neutrality all pertain only to those two municipalities.   Every municipality will have different aggregate tax changes requiring a unique resetting of tax rates, as will every school district.  So for all other municipalities even to begin figuring out what the change to your tax bill is you will need to compare your assessment change to the changes in both taxing bodies.  Whatever the number was for Pittsburgh, and/or Mount Oliver, will have nothing to do with your situation if you are not a resident of those two places.  I sense a lot of folks thing the numbers being reported for Pittsburgh apply more generally.

I got into this a bit more a year ago in this post: So you want to calculate your new property tax bill?

and as far as I can tell, there is nothing in the public record yet as to what any of those aggregate changes are.  I did calculate it to be a roughly +25% value for Wilkinsburg, but that again just applies for residents there.

More to follow.  


Anonymous MH said...

Wilkinsburg has a rock climbing wall. That always causes values to shoot up.

Monday, January 30, 2012 2:06:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Rock climbing wall is in the City of Pittsburgh isn't it?

Monday, January 30, 2012 2:17:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

It is at that. I thought the climbing wall was farther out until I looked.

Monday, January 30, 2012 2:42:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

I've got the median taxable residential property in Wilkinsburg only up 10%. Total inflation from 2002 to 2010 was 21%, so that's negative in real terms.

So no particular surprises overall, except some people find the math surprising.

Monday, January 30, 2012 2:55:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

and a median so far below the mean implies a skew that pushes up the size of the majority expecting a tax decrease as a result.

Monday, January 30, 2012 2:57:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I'm guessing this means that people are really going to pay for having a quick walk to Frick and/or the climbing wall.

Monday, January 30, 2012 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger Denovich said...

That's just great. I live in Wilkinsburg. Got my assessment in the mail Friday. It went up by 50%. As if the property taxes weren't high enough already. A block away in either direction and I'd be in Churchill or Penn Hills...

So, what triggers redrawing of school districts/municipalities?

Monday, January 30, 2012 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Can't have your cake and eat it too.. If your property was mysteriously moved into Churchill, don't you think its value would go up as a result?

To the degree it is an interesting question, I don't see how there are any ways to marginally redraw municipal boundaries. Maybe Wilkinsburg could merge into Churchill?

Monday, January 30, 2012 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

For Wilkinsburg I got about 60.9% of the taxable residential properties below the 24.67% aggregate increase. This was a simplistic analysis (no attempt to exclude very low value properties, or take account of the homestead exemption, or so forth). Again this is all predictable--Wilkinsburg has a fewer higher value residential neighborhoods that also appreciated more. The commercial properties also helped a little bit, but not that much (they were only up a couple percentage points more than the residential properties in aggregate).

Wilkinsburg should be able to cut its millages by about 20%--so that's good news, and maybe will help attract a bit more investment. Incidentally, if your property went up 50% your taxes-paid should only go up about 20% (1.5*.8).

Finally, there is no doubt Wilkinsburg needs to at least merge its school district. Interestingly, it can bring to the table some good money, due to having not that many students in light of the available revenues (even at a somewhat lower millage post-merger). So maybe it won't take a court order.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger Denovich said...

Looking at similar homes (which is relatively easy, since many of the homes in Blackridge are of the same vintage/design/construction), if I redrew the municipal borders, I'd still be likely to see a net reduction in taxes.

The notion that a property is an investment sure takes a hit factor in getting hit for 5.4% of the value of your property for taxes on a yearly basis.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 2:46:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

The notion that a property is an investment sure takes a hit factor in getting hit for 5.4% of the value of your property for taxes on a yearly basis.

A direct and inevitable result of the hyper fragmentation of local government in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 2:48:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Speaking of, why hasn't that school district been sued out of existence? Did courts just stop doing that?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 3:26:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

The notion that your home is an investment has taken a hit for a lot of different reasons lately, and I think more people are starting to look at the virtues of simply buying low, as opposed to buying high and hoping it will go even higher.

Anyway, to answer MH:

There are now some cases on the books that interpret the state constitution's education provision very weakly, such that a school district in PA can be almost arbitrarily bad. Note that Woodland Hills was created as a result of a successful racial segregation case, not because the proposed General Braddock School District would have been terrible.

And I think it would be interesting if some district actually tested these issues by simply liquidating itself.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 4:06:00 PM  
Blogger Denovich said...

I bought low and at almost the exact moment in history to make the most of a 7/1 ARM (current interest rate is 3.125%)... and it is still tough sledding with a 5.4% headwind.

Wilkinsburg School District: Ranked 495th out of 498 for 2011! That's impressive, only 3 schools did better (at being terrible). Glass 1% full...

And I partially answered my own question on municipal boundaries thanks to a link I found on It doesn't (necessarily) involve torches and pitchforks as I had hoped.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 4:42:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Of course you also need to factor in your implied rent savings (which is the primary source of expected return on your "investment" in housing), and your opportunity cost of capital savings (versus wherever else you would contemplate buying).

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 5:21:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I was actually looking at that Wikipedia page Denovich has listed when I wondered why they don't sue. Since then, I've clicked on the reference for that and saw just how far down the list the adjoining districts are.

Thank the Lord for nuns or I'd have to move to Mt. Lebo.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 9:27:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Merging into the PPS would probably make the most sense, and I might note the City has become Wilkinsburg's go-to partner for other mergers (garbage and fire, and supposedly they are also talking about police).

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Denovich said...

Also of note from the Wikipedia page: 1568 students, 169 teachers = 9.2 students per teacher...

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 10:33:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Yes. A merger would involve a ton of layoffs (more in the administration), which is why I don't think it will happen without a court order.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

There is a reform-minded group in Wilkinsburg which is trying to elect people to the school board. I don't know if they have this explicitly in mind, but if they did take control of the board, then they could potentially override the entrenched interests of district employees (I don't mean to seem callous, but it is a failed school district and in such a case drastic remedies are required).

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 2:03:00 PM  

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