Mt. Lebanon assessments grossly unfairPublished Apr 2, 2014 at 5:34 am (Updated Mar 31, 2014 at 9:41 am)
The Almanac printed a letter from Michael Suley in the March 19, 2014, edition, telling us how unfair one aspect of the current assessment and township policy of Mt. Lebanon is. I say one aspect, because there are several more that are even more grossly unfair, and which demonstrate the extremely poor job that the assessors have done, especially the company that was hired to do the leg work, that would explain a great deal of the discrepancies in the tax assessments and indeed the unfair range of taxation in Mt. Lebanon. It should be noted that the assessments are supposed to be based on the market value of the properties, and even if someone moves in from outside the area and therefore overpays for a property, the value is what they could get for it.
Take a look at the accuracy of the information on the properties on the Allegheny County website. A very simple item would be the number of garages. There are houses that have a two car garage opening at the front of the house, or another that has a three car garage that is bit more difficult to observe, but the size and price range of the house, as well as the presence of a driveway that would indicate a garage, but the county says that they have none!
There are houses where the values have gone up a great deal since the last reassessment, and the assessors have not picked that up. Thus, we see houses which just had their assessments decreased being put up for sale at about twice what the current owner paid for them.
Then, there are streets where houses have been at least doubled in size that the assessors didn’t pick up, some of which were enlarged before the last assessment (now well over 10 years ago), which also constitutes a severe underassessment. These houses are assessed at less than half of what they were bought for, and now their neighbors have had their assessments reduced to bring them more in line with those earlier assessments.
Finally, there are those whose assessments have been raised beyond any reasonable amount, so that the owners have the dubious pleasure of paying the taxes that those on the streets above mentioned should be paying. The result of these machinations by the company that was hired to do the assessments is that some are assessed at almost the same for their $200,000 house as others are assessed for their $800,000 house. Of course, those paying full freight or more are those who do not have the money to buy a house on one of the under assessed but very expensive streets. Indeed, the under assessment of just one of those houses is more than the cost of even a “midrange” (about $400,000) house. And you wonder why the people are unhappy about the one percent.
All of this results in the taxes of all the residents being set at a higher level than they should be, because those in the most expensive houses are paying less than half of what they should. I would ask Mr. Suley: is this fair? Is it just? If I understand the listing of your previous positions in the Almanac correctly, I might ask: where were you when all this was happening? Why didn’t you check some of the assessments? Why do those who have less have to pay a greater relative amount than those who have more?
One way to deal with all this mess would be to do as in Minneapolis. The assessments could be raised to the market value, as they should be, but the taxes could only be raisedtwo percent to five percent per year. Why do we have to be so set in ways that clearly do not work? Yes, the cities and townships can appeal, as can homeowners who are unfairly assessed, but that costs money, which is another tax.
Mt. Lebanon, PA