Friday, March 18, 2005

Assessment Solutions

OK, in my last posting, we talked about how the assessment cap is basically illegal. Let's assume, for a moment, that there is a "problem" to be solved and that government action is required to "solve" this "problem". I argue that the problem is not with the assessment, per se, but rather the taxes that are derived from that assessment. So, how do you solve the tax problem, given the uniformity and equity issues involved? Couple ideas:

(1) Reduce the assessment basis from 100% of value. Back in the day, the assessment was about 25% of value and the tax rate was high; today, the county is at 100%, but the rate is low. If the County thinks that the assessments are too high, it can reduce the assessment basis down a few points, covering uniformly all Allegheny County taxpayers. The segmentation of property owners into classes of 1,2,3,4 or 0% property caps does not meet this uniformity requirement and should be abandoned.

(2) Lean on the municipalities to reduce their tax rates. If Allison Park has such a problem with being reassessed too high, let Allison Park reduce their taxes so that they confirm with windfall laws. County intrusion by instituting a cap is unnecessary.

(3) Reassess, reassess, reassess every year. While the citizenry make not like the outcome, it will give them a larger sample set in order to base any appeals.

(4) Assess the assessments. A large problem here is that we don't have a good standard to measure the accuracy of the assessments. Onorato says that the assessments are inaccurate; the assessor's office begs to differ. The County needs an independent verification of not only the accuracy but also the disparities of the assessments.

(5) Leave politics out of the assessments as per Rule #6. The assessments are supposed to be apolitical; taxes are political. If assessments are high, the politicians should reduce tax rates or value bases, not tinker with calculations. Would you let the Federal Highway Administration adjust your car so that you are forced to go 55 mph, or would you prefer they just readjust speed limits?

(6) Hell, put politics back in it and repeal the equitable assessment provisions of the State Constitution. While you're at it, repeal any pesky Civil Rights Laws at the Federal level. If the law is bothering you, get rid of the law.

(7) Burn down the county and start again with the assessments. If this option is chosen, please start either with Mount Oliver or Robinson.

Just some thoughts, I'm open to more. Even ones that don't involve arson. Of course, this is, again, assuming that there is actually a "problem" that must be "solved"... just like the "problem" with Social Security and the "solution" of individual retirement accounts... but, hey, I digress.


Ol' Froth said...

How about assessing the value at the sales price? Or anytime a building permit is issued? If I buy a home and have no intention of moving, why should I be assesed out of my home? It also forces politicians to raise taxes if raising taxes are warranted, instead of hiding behind the assessors.

Jonathan Potts said...

Not a bad idea, but to play devil's advocate, that would require adjusting the sale price for inflation if a person has owned their home for several years, or several decades. But even that would not necessarily reflect a home's value, because it may have features that are more or less valuable than at the time the house was bought.