While the controversial property tax reassessment program is crawling to a conclusion in Allegheny County, the residents of Washington County are the next to face some changes in their property values.
The county is considering three bids from firms to conduct the reassessment work in Allegheny County. One of the applicants is familiar as Tyler Technologies, which did the reassessment work in Allegheny County, has expressed interest in Washington.
The other two companies that have submitted bids are Evaluator Services and Technology, Inc. of Greensburg, and Pearson’s Appraisals of Richmond, Va.
It is interesting that Gene Porterfield, president of Evaluator Services, projects a staff of 45 to 50 people will be used as field data collectors and office staff. If that seems like a low number, it is. There are 128,970 parcels of property in Washington County and there has not been a reassessment done in 40 years. There are going to be changes, big changes, in the assessed value of residential and commercial properties in the county and the field assessors will be overwhelmed.
Washington County needs to take a lesson from the fiasco in Allegheny County, where 575,938 parcels were evaluated by only 60 data collectors. The assessments were primarily done by computer and the accuracy left much to be desired. Then there is the matter of hiring enough hearing officers to handle the appeals. Given the number of years between assessments, there will be a large number of appeals. There have been over 130,000 appeals in Allegheny County for the 2013 property tax season. The ration of appeals to parcels could be even higher in Washington County.
It would wise for Washington County officials to meet with their Allegheny County peers as this process begins to get a sense of the enormous scope to this project. It is projected by the Washington County commissioners to cost in the range of $8 million. There is no price for the potential pitfalls the reassessment will cause, unless Washington County does its diligence and preparation.