Monday, April 23, 2012

Routine is as routine does

I have to admit I am somewhat mystified as to why this story is running now.  Wouldn't this story have made a lot more sense running earlier in the year, or last year, or the year before??  But hey, if you missed this in the PG over the weekend: In Ohio, reassessments are routine.  Still makes me say again that the story of property assessment in Allegheny County is about as close as you can get to Groundhog Day over and over again.

There are lots of angles to the story of how Ohip conducts property assessments.  Here in Allegheny County, once most of the assessors were fired the subsequent assessment functions have been outsourced to firms like Sabre Systems and Cole, Layer Trumble, both of which are Ohio firms.  Why Ohio firms? Because there would be no reason for a Pennsylvania firm to become an expert in mass property assessments given the dearth of assessments going on in the state. Ohio, as the article notes, has statutorily routine reassessments and it is no coincidence that the firms that do that kind of work are located there.  Problem is that because there are no local firms specialized in mass reassessment work, there is that much less local knowledge built up.  So we have created a self-reinforcing cycle: no local expertise in mass assessments for tax purposes leads to less than optimal reassessment work which then creates greater public angst against doing any property assessment at all.  Methinks some actually want the assessment system in Pennsylvania to fail.

Yet the real story at the moment may be just how moderate the angst level has become over all things assessment.  Really.  All numbers need context and the story yesterday mentions early on that there are 44 thousand assessment appeals Allegheny County must deal with as a result of the assessment.  Sounds like a big number... 44 thousand and all.   That is 44 thousand out of almost 600 thousand individual parcels in Allegheny County.  When you take into account all the public rhetoric encouraging virtually everyone to appeal the number of appeals at this point is remarkably small.  For an assessment from values over a decade old at this point, it would have been unreasonable to expect much fewer appeals.  Even if every single valuation was notionally 'perfect' I have to believe 5-10% of folks here would file an appeal just on principle.

Anyway...  for the greater pespective: what may be the greatest coverage of local assessment anger is all in this one photo of 2,000 angry denizens of the South Hills.  Anger for 1,999 of them at least and one kind of happy looking dude if you can find him. 


Anonymous Alex B. said...

Perhaps Ohio politicians are more interested in good government, whereas our local mongrels are more interested in promoting their careers by "fighting" against assessment.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 10:46:00 PM  

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