FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Jesse White
Reassessment Reform Task Force unveils report
HARRISBURG, April 10 – A joint task force created under legislation authored by state Reps. Jesse White and Brandon Neuman has reported the findings of its six-month study regarding reforming the commonwealth's flawed system of conducting property reassessments.
The task force was established to create a set of uniform standards for reassessing property values in the commonwealth, including developing new procedures for collecting and verifying reassessment data, developing standards for county reassessment contracting, and making other recommendations to improve the commonwealth’s flawed reassessment system.
The Property Reassessment Task Force Report, which is the first comprehensive examination of the reassessment process in Pennsylvania by all stakeholders in decades, can be found here.
The task force reviewed the reassessment processes in different counties within Pennsylvania and existing standards in other states, published by the International Association of Assessing Officers. Additionally, it held several meetings to gather input from stakeholders involved in the reassessment process, including the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, County Commissioners Association, Assessors’ Association of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board, and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.
Of the task force’s many findings, concerns and questions continually surfaced surrounding the data that the State Tax Equalization Board generates for purposes of reassessment. STEB data was often found to be an inaccurate and unreliable statistical tool to determine the need for a county to conduct a reassessment.
"The Reassessment Task Force Report confirms what many of us have suspected all along, that the current reassessment system in Pennsylvania is a complete mess, but one that we now hope to get untangled once and for all," White said. "The work of the task force was a rare instance of elected officials working across party lines to protect taxpayers from huge property tax increases, and I welcome the upcoming opportunity to implement solutions to the many problems we discovered. By restoring the reassessment process to its original intended use, we eliminate the ability to use reassessment as a weapon to dramatically increase property taxes, which should eliminate these ridiculous lawsuits being filed by school districts and funded on both sides by taxpayers."
"Ultimately it would be best if we could move away from funding public education through property taxes, but until that can happen, we’ve learned the process can be improved to be more efficient and equitably shared," Neuman said. "Half the battle was identifying exactly what wasn’t working with the reassessment process, and now we know where to start fixing the problems. With these findings, we’ll finally be able to move forward with a system that actually works for the taxpayer and correctly distributes the tax burden."
The release of this report comes on the heels of the House’s passage of H.B. 2137, sponsored by Reps. Rick Saccone, White and Neuman, which would establish a moratorium on court-ordered reassessments to allow the legislature time to implement recommendations of the task force. The moratorium bill is awaiting consideration in the Senate.
"Pennsylvania's system of property taxation is both arbitrary and unfair -- everyone knows that," Saccone said. "Not only does it make Pennsylvania a less attractive place to live, work, and do business, it keeps homeowners in constant fear of their next tax bill. The recommendations in this report are designed to offer some possible solutions to this nagging problem. The task force was necessary to objectively study the inequities of the entire property tax assessment system. The team came up with solid suggestions and guidelines, some of which may be turned into actual legislation. The end result should be a more equitable system across all 67 counties while maintaining local control."
Currently, Allegheny and Washington counties are under court order to reassess, costing counties millions of dollars and leading to high and unfair property tax increases for property owners.
Additional issues that the task force reported include:
· Developing standards for disclosing the county's system of property valuation and assessment;
· Developing a self-evaluation tool for counties to determine when a reassessment is warranted;
· Recommending a standard for a statewide mandatory reassessment time frame;
White and Neuman will introduce legislation to enact the report's recommendations at the state level; however the lawmakers said counties should use the report to identify areas that can be improved at the local level not requiring action by the legislature.