The problem with property assessments is that they're just wrong. Why doesn't County Executive Dan Onorato want to make them right?
In doing so, he'd bring relief to tens of thousands of county taxpayers who have been overassessed and overtaxed for years. Many, but not all, of those people, like the ones who brought the suit that led to the court-ordered reassessment, live in communities and neighborhoods where property values have been stagnant or in decline.
Wouldn't Mr. Onorato, a Democrat, look better in his run for governor if he appealed to our better natures and fought for those people instead of against them? Instead, by opposing reassessment at every step of the way, he has let those least able to afford it continue to pay too much.
The county's assessments aren't uniformly wrong. If they were, that would be OK. Instead, they're un-uniformly wrong, which means there are just about as many people who are way overassessed as there are who are way underassessed. Unfortunately, none of us knows on which side of the divide we stand because assessments have been mismanaged for so long. The only way to get them right is through a fair and accurate reassessment.
Taxes are set under a simple equation: Budget equals millage times assessment. The only part of that equation that politics should control is the budget. Assessments can't be part of it. As long as budgets stay about the same -- and there's no reason they shouldn't -- reassessment will affect only those who have been paying too little and those who have been paying too much.
The writer is a retired Post-Gazette editor and reporter who wrote extensively about assessments in the early 1990s.