Another Luzerne County reassessment not in administration’s immediate plans

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | May 19th, 2017 7:35 pm

Luzerne County’s real estate tax assessments are still accurate eight years after a reassessment that had assigned fresh values to the more than 165,000 properties within the county, a new report says.

The determination came from the State Tax Equalization Board, which examines properties sold within each county annually to measure how much purchase prices are deviating from assessed values used for school, county and municipal property taxes.

Its conclusion is summed up in a statistic called a common level ratio.

The perfect ratio is 100.

The county’s new ratio is 103.1, which means properties predominantly sold at prices 3.1 percent below assessments in 2016.

In comparison, ratios under 100 indicate sales prices are landing above assessed values.

The county’s latest ratio ranks third for accuracy among all 67 counties, the data shows.

Philadelphia, which launched a reassessment it called an “actual value initiative” in 2014, has the most accurate ratio: 99.

In second place is Cumberland County in the south, which reassessed in 2010 and has a ratio of 98.1, the report shows.

“We’re third closest to the ideal score in the state. Based upon these numbers, I would not be recommending another reassessment at this point,” said county Manager C. David Pedri.

Property owners who believe their values are off and don’t want to wait until the next reassessment can file assessment appeals annually, said Pedri. The annual appeal deadline is Aug. 1, and any reductions take effect the following year.

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 updated. They maintained some property owners in neighborhoods experiencing market decline may not be in a position to contest their assessments.

The last reassessment, which took effect in 2009, 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 for assessment accuracy statewide, with a ratio of 7.3.

County officials have estimated 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.

Anthony Alu, the county’s assessment director, has argued against another mass revaluation of all properties until the ratio strays outside a range of 85 to 115.

Alu said he has faith in the state’s analysis because the board relied on 2,439 sales in the county to calculate the new ratio. These sales were deemed valid, arm’s length transactions. Additional extreme high and low sales — such as those involving mortgage foreclosures or $1 family property transfers — were not considered because they would have skewed results, he said.

“I’m very, very pleased with the ratio because we’re still well within tolerable statistical ranges,” Alu said. “It shows we got the biggest bang for our buck when we did the last reassessment.”

The county’s latest ratio is an improvement because the ratio was 103.8 last year.

The ratio has yo-yoed since the reassessment.

Immediately after the reassessment, the county’s ratio was ranked the most accurate in the state at 99.7 in 2010 and 100.4 in 2011, records show.

However, the ratio climbed to 109.9 in 2013 before inching back to 106.4 in 2014 and 102.3 in 2015.


By Jennifer Learn-Andes

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

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