Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has directed the certification of 2011 property values for use countywide for 2012 tax purposes, in effect throwing out the recent reassessments that have angered and confused many residents. Fitzgerald said that the certified numbers using 2002 data were sent out to city residents on Thursday.
“That rescinds, rescinds and makes null and void, the numbers that went out a week ago. So all taxing bodies will have their numbers in time, which would have been by next Friday, to set their millages, set their budgets, and operate their governments,” said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said that he’s following state law and following county code, and added that means that county property values are to be sent out in total. “We can’t pick and choose which municipalities we choose to assess at one level and one we do at another level. We’re being consistent in following state law,” he said.
Faced with repeated questions of whether this move is legal, or if it’s in contempt of court or a jailable offense, Fitzgerald emphasized that the county is following state law.
“We’re following what the second class county code, the administrative code, and what the state assessment code calls for us to do, and that’s what we’re doing. I’m following the state law and I’m going to protect the taxpayers. It’s County Council and the County Executive who set policy when it comes to assessment policy, so we are following the law and we’re going to carry out that assessment policy,” he said.
Fitzgerald said that the court-ordered reassessment is chaotic and disastrous, and hits working-class neighborhoods the hardest. He warned that if the reassessments were to stand, the county could lose residents.
“If we allow this reassessment to go forward, it will drive people out of Allegheny County, moving to Butler, Washington, Beaver, and Westmoreland. Those counties haven’t reassessed in 40 years. We should not be singled out to do that,” he said.
Fitzgerald was joined by elected officials from the State Senate, State House, County Council, City Council, and Pittsburgh School Board in making his announcement. He also called on all of them to support a resolution to stop the current reassessment and to impose a moratorium on singled-out court-ordered reassessments until the issue can be addressed on a statewide level.
Meantime, the judge overseeing the reassessment said that he will consider delaying implementation of the new property values until 2013. Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. made the remark after a formal request from Pittsburgh Public Schools. But, Fitzgerald said that a one-year hold isn’t good enough.
Fitzgerald added that the reassessments were rushed and many woudn't be available in time to file for informal review requests before the deadline, which is Friday, January 13.