Peacock Tales • Spring 2016
Washington County recently contracted with Tyler Technologies to conduct a reassessment of all of the roughly 120,000 properties in the county. The County last revalued properties in the late 1970s with a base year set at January 1, 1981. This meant that the valuation date of all new construction thereafter, for the past thirty years, was January 1, 1981. As a result of the reassessment, all properties within the county will now have an assessment of what their property was worth on July 1, 2015.
The new values have been mailed to property owners during March and April 2016. If property owners are not satisfied with the valuation, they can request an informal review with Tyler Technologies. The official change of assessment notice will be sent to all property owners after July 1, 2016. If a property owner is still not satisfied with their valuation, a formal appeal may be filed with the County Tax Revenue Department and hearings will be held before the County Board of Assessment Appeals, until October 31, 2016.
In November, the new assessment values will be certified by the County to the taxing bodies which will utilize those values to calculate new tax bills starting with the 2017 tax year. (Beginning on January 1, 2017 for the county and local real estate taxes, and July 1, 2017 for school taxes.) Until those tax bills are calculated, property owners will not know whether their real estate taxes will increase or decrease as a result of the new assessment.
There are statutory limits, however, to which a municipal subdivision can raise taxes at the completion of a countywide reassessment. In the first year that any county implements a countywide reassessment, a taxing district levying its real estate taxes on the revised assessment roll for the first time shall reduce its tax rate, if necessary, so that the total amount of taxes levied for that year are not more than 10% greater than the total amount it levied on the properties the preceding year, notwithstanding the increased valuations of the properties under the revised assessment.
This section of the law does not apply to a school district, which is further restricted in its ability to raise taxes. Under Act 1 of 2006, known as the Taxpayer Relief Act, school districts cannot increase their taxes beyond an inflationary index unless they gain voter approval through a referendum. The current index for most school districts is approximately 3%. Therefore, a school district must decrease its millage following a countywide reassessment so that the total amount of taxes levied are no more than 3% greater than the total amount it levied on the properties the preceding year.
It will be several months before Washington County residents will see the impact of the reassessment on the amount of taxes they will pay. However, state law guarantees that the overall tax increases will be minimal due to this anti-windfall legislation.
Peacock Keller & Ecker, LLP • 70 East Beau Street • Washington, PA 15301 • 724-222-4520