Missed properties added to Luzerne County tax rolls

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
Swetz -

Luzerne County has added $3.75 million in real estate to the tax rolls since April using a new software program that detects missed properties based on aerial photography, according to county Manager C. David Pedri’s latest monthly division report.

The added real estate equates to $22,427 in county tax revenue. School districts and municipalities also receive additional revenue for properties picked up in their jurisdictions.

County officials have predicted revenue from added properties eventually would exceed the $50,000 software purchase from Rochester-based Pictometry International Corp. To date, the county recouped 45 percent.

The software pinpointed all building footprint changes that occurred between flyovers in 2008 and 2016, generating a list of approximately 12,000 properties to be checked by the county assessor’s office. The list did not compare these properties to assessment records to determine which had been detected. County assessment staffers started reviewing the list in April.

County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz said Monday the assessor’s office review of the list will continue in coming months. He also plans analysis of the added properties to identify geographic areas that may warrant more monitoring in the future, possibly due to issues with building permits.

These permits are the primary way the county learns about new construction. Owners sometimes fail to obtain permits as required, particularly in rural areas with large tracts where construction is not visible from highways, officials have said. The assessor’s office also has pushed municipalities to consistently forward their permits to the county.

In another fiscal matter, the county has collected $107.6 million of the $109.2 million budgeted for real estate taxes overall in 2017, or 98.5 percent, Swetz said Monday. A final tally isn’t available because some tax collectors are still submitting final 2017 collection reports, he said.

Swetz said he is “hopeful” the county will meet last year’s budget target as it had in 2016.

The county budgeted $104.45 million from real estate taxes in 2016 and collected $105.23 million, he said.

The county’s five-year financial recovery plan, which was prepared by Harrisburg-based consultant Public Financial Management in 2015, encourages the county to increase its tax collection.

Knowing some property owners won’t pay, the county has been budgeting 92 percent of the maximum that could be received annually since 2014, Swetz said.

The five-year plan said this is an improvement from the 88 percent budgeted from 2007 through 2013. However, the county should strive for 95 percent, which is similar to the best-performing counties of similar size, the plan said.


By Jennifer Learn-Andes


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

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