Stephen A. Urban told his Luzerne County Council colleagues Tuesday that it’s time for another countywide reassessment.
“I still hear complaints from people in the public saying that their properties are overassessed,” Urban said. “We did the assessments during the peak of 2008 and 2009, and the market has gone down significantly.”
Urban said he and prior commissioners Tom Makowski and Maryanne Petrilla had the “guts” to complete the last countywide revaluation to correct widespread inaccuracies that had occurred since the previous reassessment in 1965. There are about 165,000 properties in the county.
The 2009 reassessment included a non-binding commissioner resolution to revalue all properties every four years to keep the assessments fresh, but county officials have rejected the provision, arguing the assessments are still accurate enough.
“Something has to be done. We have to follow the procedure. If we wait another 20 years, it will get out of whack,” Urban said.
County Assessment Director Anthony Alu has advocated another reassessment if an annual state comparison of sales to assessments shows the values are off 15 percent, plus or minus. However, Alu has stressed the decision rests with the county manager and 11 council members.
The state Tax Equalization Board concluded purchase prices countywide landed about 2 percent below assessments in the county in 2014.
The report issued last summer was an improvement because sales had strayed below assessments by 6 percent in 2013, 9.9 percent in 2012 and 9.4 percent in 2011.
County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz, who oversees the assessor’s office, said the state comes up with a countywide percentage that does not reflect concerns that may be occurring in “individual pockets.”
Swetz said he believes the council should discuss the matter and start planning for the next reassessment due to the magnitude of the expense.
The last reassessment cost $8 million, but county officials project the next revaluation will cost about $2 million because the assessment database has been maintained and much of the work can be completed in-house. The next reassessment would take about two years to complete, Alu has estimated.
“It may not be as expensive as it was last time, but it’s still going to be a major capital project, and we should definitely give as much advance notice,” Swetz said.
Council Chairwoman Linda McClosky Houck asked the administration to submit a report to council.
“I think it is something that we need to monitor as a council and act on it when necessary,” McClosky Houck said. “We need to stay vigilant.”
County officials have advised property owners to consider filing assessment challenges if they believe their values are not justified.
Property owners must file appeals by Aug. 1. Any reductions would take effect in 2017.