New state report grades accuracy of Luzerne County’s property assessments


By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]



Alu


How to appeal

Luzerne County officials have advised property owners to consider filing assessment challenges if they believe their values are inaccurate.

Aug. 1 is the annual appeal filing deadline. Any reductions would take effect the following tax year.

Visit the assessment section at www.luzernecounty.org for appeal forms and other information.

Luzerne County’s property assessments ranked sixth in the state for accuracy in a new report, reinforcing plans to hold off reassessing all properties.

“Our values are still in very, very good condition,” county Assessment Director Anthony Alu said Wednesday.

The ranking comes from the State Tax Equalization Board, which examines properties sold within each county annually to determine if real estate purchase prices are deviating from assessed values used for taxation. Its findings are summed up in an annual statistic called a common level ratio.

The perfect ratio is 100.

Ratios straying above that indicate properties are predominantly selling below assessed values, while scores under 100 show sales landing higher than assessments.

Luzerne County’s new score is 103.8.

It’s less favorable than last year’s score of 102.3 but better than the county’s ratios of 106.4 in 2014 and 109.9 in 2013.

The state had ranked Luzerne County’s assessments the most accurate of all 67 counties after its 2009 reassessment, when the tax values of all 165,000 properties were updated. The county’s ratio was 99.7 in 2010 and 100.4 in 2011, records show.

Alu has argued against another mass revaluation of all properties until the ratio moves outside a range of 85 to 115.

But county Councilman Stephen A. Urban, some Hazleton area officials and others have argued the county should follow a prior administration’s pledge to reassess all properties every four years to keep the values fresh.

The last reassessment cost $8 million and was a huge adjustment because the previous revaluation dated back to 1965. Decades of inequities had piled up, placing the county at the bottom of the barrel for assessment accuracy statewide, with a ratio of 7.3.

The next reassessment is supposed to be done in-house and cost significantly less, officials said.

Alu stands by his position to wait, saying the state’s latest independent ratio was based on the comprehensive review of around 2,300 property sales that occurred in the county last year.

Some isolated neighborhoods may be experiencing depressed real estate markets where sales come in below assessments, but these property owners have the right to file appeals annually arguing their assessments should be reduced, Alu said.

County Manager C. David Pedri said he supports continued monitoring based on the new ratio and Alu’s feedback. The administration did not include a request to fund another reassessment in its proposed new capital plan, which covers projects anticipated through 2019.

“I won’t be recommending a reassessment in 2017,” Pedri said Wednesday.

Cumberland County in the south, which reassessed in 2010, ranked top in assessment accuracy among the state’s counties, with a 99.8 ratio that came closest to 100.

Lehigh County in the Allentown area was next in line, with a ratio of 99. Lehigh reassessed in 2013.

The others in the top five most accurate: Philadelphia, 98.3; Perry, 97.5; and Bedford, 96.6.

All three completed reassessments in recent years — Philadelphia and Bedford in 2013 and Perry in 2010.

Alu
http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_alu-1.jpgAlu

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

How to appeal

Luzerne County officials have advised property owners to consider filing assessment challenges if they believe their values are inaccurate.

Aug. 1 is the annual appeal filing deadline. Any reductions would take effect the following tax year.

Visit the assessment section at www.luzernecounty.org for appeal forms and other information.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

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