It's time to deal with reassessment reality

Written by Rosa Colucci on .

How many more years and millions of tax dollars will Dan Onorato waste trying to fight the common-sense reality that property taxes must track changing property values to be fair? No politician likes to give voters bad news, but our county executive is displaying this phobia to a pathological degree with his pronouncement that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's recent ruling won't force the county to reassess properties ("Court Orders County Reassessment," April 30).

To be fair to Mr. Onorato, this issue is bigger than Allegheny County, and he may be trying to prevent well-heeled property owners from fleeing to surrounding counties that still use a base-year system. This is obviously a case for the state Legislature to take up, but I hope nobody holds their breath waiting for this: Most other counties probably enjoy life in their "Truman Show" bubble of decades-old property assessments, and their legislators will resist forced reassessments.

In fact, a base-year system in many of these counties may not result in the degree of unconstitutional disparity noted here because most nonurban counties have more uniformly rising property values. Outside Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and a few former industrial areas, it is probably hard to find such an extreme divergence of housing market value as has occurred with two identical old row houses in Braddock and the South Side Flats.

We Allegheny County residents and our executive have a choice: Continue to curse the darkness and shake our fists at the wind while spending millions of dollars on legal fees, or take that same money and invest (again, since the first attempt by Sabre Systems was thrown away) in a regularly updated reassessment system based on current market values.

Spring Hill


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