Over the past four months, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner and the Controller’s Auditing Division have engaged in a detailed review of the most recent property reassessment in Allegheny County. The goals of Controller Wagner’s engagement were two-fold. First, the Controller wanted to evaluate whether or not the County’s reassessment contractor, Tyler Technologies, complied the terms of its contract with the County. Second, Controller Wagner wanted to review the performance of Office of Property Assessments throughout the process prior to informal and formal appeals.
“The purpose of this evaluation was to first see whether the County’s outside contractor was both in compliance and properly held accountable by its contract with the county,” said Wagner, “While Tyler Technologies was ultimately in compliance and has reluctantly now been paid in full, the contract lacked the teeth to truly hold them accountable to the highest standards. This weak contract laid a poor foundation for the reassessment effort.”
Additionally, the Controller’s report details a series of key findings and recommendations for the Office of Property Assessment and the County in regards to short-term and long-term ways to improve the assessment process. These can be found in both full report, and the companion Summary document prepared by Controller Wagner to promote better understanding of the report.
“This report is just the first step in a long process of working together to take a broken system, in need of statewide reform, and make it more fair and effective for Allegheny County taxpayers,” Controller Chelsa Wagner said, “The focus now must be on how we improve this process to promote fairness, transparency, and ease of participation for taxpayers.”
The key findings of the report, in brief, are as follows:
The contract with Tyler Technologies failed to provide adequate accountability to protect taxpayers and promote fairness.
The original contract with Tyler Technologies was altered in February 2012, in the midst of the reassessment resulting in even less accountability.
After auditors conducted an independent Sales Ratio Study, over a dozen municipalities and school districts fell outside of acceptable industry metrics for fairness – but Tyler Technologies was not held to this standard under the contract.
Certain contract provisions were not met, including a failure to meet the agreed upon project timeline.
Additionally, Controller Wagner’s report makes recommendations for the County to take action now to improve this process for the future.
“While I supported statewide reassessment reform in the state legislature and still do, there are clear specific ways that Allegheny County can take action now to lessen the harm and shock in the future,” said Wagner. “First, Allegheny County must develop its own standards for assessing properties that provide maximum accountability and promote fairness. Second, the County should hire a full-time Chief Assessment Officer to ensure compliance with all legally designated duties.
Lastly, the County should review and correct any deficiencies, inequity, or unfairness at the local level that remains after the appeals process. “
The full report and companion summary provide even greater detail to these findings and recommendations.