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Challenging Your Assessment

The question of property assessments came up at Monday's Dormont Council meeting. Patch Local Editor Mike Jones shares his experience challenging his property assessment.

At Monday's meeting, council President Bill McCartney said several residents asked him what could be done about Allegheny County property reassessments.

The good news is that individuals can challenge their assessments—the bad news, he said, is that there is very little the borough can do to change the situation. Dormont's average property reassessment rates were up 52 percent, he said, while Mt. Lebanon's were up only about 32 percent.

McCartney said he and Dormont Mayor Tom Lloyd met with state Rep. Matt Smith, who represents Mt. Lebanon, about the issue. The recommendation from McCartney and Lloyd is that residents continue to write, email and call their state representatives, as well as state Sen. Wayne Fontana, to voice concerns about the issue.

-Dormont-Brookline Patch Editor, Erin Faulk

In this column, Chartiers Valley Patch editor Mike Jones shares his experience challenging his property assessment:

My expectations for any resolution on my were pretty low when I entered the county building on Forbes shortly before noon Monday.

But by the time I left my informal hearing about 15 minutes later, those low expectations turned into total bewilderment about what would be happening next.

Living in a townhouse community, I figured should be practically identical. But after receiving a number that was 5 percent higher than a neighbor three doors down, it seemed like a no-brainer to appeal.

I presented my information, photos and four comparables to one of the many real estate agents hired to listen to our complaints. While she thumbed through my comparables, I asked her why the county didn’t just hire them to do the assessment in the first place. She said many realtors are asking themselves that same question.

After reviewing all of my “evidence” and tapping at her keyboard for a few minutes, she handed back my information and told me I should get them scanned at a room down the hall. That took a few more minutes and the process was completed.

So what does that means to my assessment? Who knows? The realtor told me she couldn’t wave a magic wand to fix the potential errors. In other words, she couldn’t perform magic on this entire debacle.

That’s funny, because I’m pretty sure the company that conducted the reassessment, Cole Layer Trumble, pulled their numbers out of thin air and made them magically appear in our mailboxes.

The realtor told me someone will review my files and make a recommendation about my grievances. I have no clue what that meant, so I grabbed a 2013 Formal Appeal, filled it out and handed it over to the county’s assessment office. They’re supposed to contact me to schedule the formal hearing when I’ll present my evidence and argue that the assessment got it wrong.

I’m not really sure what argument will work because no part of this process has made any sense.

Regardless, if you think your assessment is wrong, I would strongly suggest you file both an informal hearing and formal appeal. Your tax bill depends on that.

Do you plan to challenge your assessment? Why do disagree with your assessment and what advice do you have for others who are unhappy with their numbers?

MSgt. John DeLallo February 29, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Anyone and everyone who got popped for 40, 50, 60 percent or more (or even 20 or 30%) should be flooding the County office with appeals requests. You must do this on or before the end of the business day on 7 March, so don't dawdle. You can also ask to have your hearing at the old Kane hospital site off Vanadium Road. Beats trying to figure out the T schedule if you are in the South Hills.
MSgt. John DeLallo February 29, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I should clarify--you must REQUEST your hearing not later than end of business day on the 7th. I've heard some of these hearings are out into May already. I go to see the panel on the 7th myself, and I sure as heck want them to explain to me how my little patch of grass and modest home was jacked up 66%!

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