As part of her continuing efforts to bring transparency and accountability to the reassessment, County Controller Chelsa Wagner today released an analysis of the post-appeal property values. The data – compiled by the Office of Property Assessments (OPA) and examined by the Controller’s office – reflects the status of the appeals process as of August 9, 2013 (the most recent date when the data was supplied to the Controller’s Office by OPA).

Wagner’s analysis is part of an ongoing process in the Controller’s Office’s to shed light on the reassessment process. This most recent analysis contains a list of the Top 30 largest reductions in appeals, the effect of appeals on the county’s tax revenue, and the effect of the appeals process for each municipality and ward.

“The goal of this report is to bring sunlight on the appeals process that has dragged on for over a year and a half,” Wagner said. “The confusion of this process has troubled me deeply. While some may want to sweep the reassessment under a rug, we owe it to the taxpayers to ensure it was fair and equitable for all property owners.”

Controller Wagner’s analysis found that a total of 19,422 commercial appeals had been filed and, as of August 9th, the taxable value on those properties had decreased over $5 billion total or an average of $259,890. By contrast, residential appeals totaled over 140,000 with a reduction in total value nearly $1.8 billion, showing an average reduction of $12,689. In total, commercial properties saw a 21% reduction through appeals, while residential owners only saw an 8.7% reduction overall. Also as a result of appeals, commercial property owners saw a total reduction in their property taxes (at 4.73 mills) of $23.9 million, while residential taxes were reduced a total $8.5 million. Wagner said that her initial “surface” analysis raised red flags that she and her office are reviewing further.

The list of Top 30 reductions, as measured by dollar value, illustrates those properties benefiting most from their respective appeal. All thirty of these properties are commercial properties. The largest reductions from appeals were $130 million shaved off in assessed value for both the non-exempt portion of UMPC Passavant in McCandless and the Allegheny Ludlum plant in Harrison.

Wagner also stated major concerns with the cumbersome burdens placed on residential homeowners – many of whom went through a three-pronged process of informal appeal, formal appeal, and a third party appraisal. Many major commercial property owners seeking an appeal, however, were given the advantage of being offered a negotiated settlement. 

“I am deeply concerned about the seeming disparity in both the process and the result of appeals between residential and commercial properties,” Wagner stated.
As part of her release today, Wagner also updated the ‘Windfall Watch’ portion of her website with preliminary information on millage rate and assessed value changes between 2012 and 2013 for school districts in Allegheny County.  Please visit this page.