- Mt Lebanon Magazine - https://lebomag.com -

addressing tax inequities

When homeowners think their property is over assessed, they can appeal through Allegheny County—and thousands of residents appeal their assessed valuations every year. But who addresses properties that are under assessed—houses that create inequity across the system and pit neighbor against neighbor because one is taxed at fair market value and the other is paying thousands less in taxes on a similar property?

To try to make the system more equitable and uniform for everyone, Mt. Lebanon has regularly appealed the assessments on some residential properties. (The school district, which handles commercial appeals, also benefits from fairly assessed residential properties).

In several recent years, the municipality appealed recently sold properties rather than those purchased many years ago because there was provable data in the form of current sales prices to help make the argument that the assessments were too low. But some residents said that method unfairly burdened new homeowners. In response, the Mt. Lebanon Commission decided to look at all residential properties and identify those that were most egregiously under assessed. This year, Mt. Lebanon is appealing 26 properties with sales dating back to 1989. Only five of those properties sold in 2014. The total estimated difference between assessed value and market value of these properties is $5.2 million.

“The commissioners approved the method with the goal of gaining a balance of equity within our residential properties by using all properties regardless of year of sale,” says Finance Director Andrew McCreery. “The new policy should be repeatable, if the commission decides to continue the program.”

Even though the difference between the property value and assessed value is a multi-million dollar figure, the municipality does not stand to get a windfall of additional revenue. Even if it won every appeal, Mt. Lebanon would collect only about $23,000 more in taxes.

“We’re not balancing the budget with this money,” McCreery says.

Here’s how the properties were chosen:

At the first level, Mt. Lebanon will pay $175 per appeal, which is extremely cost-effective, McCreery says.

For frequently asked questions and more details on the program and how Mt. Lebanon handled previous years’ appeals, go to www.mtlebanon.org [1].