"Freezing" tax assessments at a given year in the past (instead of periodically going through the drag of reassessing property) has a beneficial effect for those who own land in booming communities, and for those who have improved or developed their land since the last assessment. Meanwhile, those living in depressed or stagnant communities, and/or those who have not added any garages or two-story water features lately, are disadvantaged under the current system. (Burgh Report, SUX2BU)
Today, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille writes:
"[T]he Allegheny County scheme, which permits a single base year assessment to be used indefinitely, has resulted in significant disparities in the ratio of assessed value to current actual value in Allegheny County. The disparity is most often to the disadvantage of owners of properties in lower-value neighborhoods where property values often appreciate at a lower rate than in higher-value neighborhoods, if they appreciate at all." (P-G, Daniel Malloy)
If a schmoe with a blog called this a year ago, one should wonder why our political leaders and their cohorts of economists and lawyers did not see this coming -- unless they are not particularly exercised by economic injustice and unconstitutionality.
I happened to learn of today's news from Fred Honsberger, who was bemoaning the "recurring nightmare" of again having to suffer through periodic property reassessments. I trust that elsewhere on the dial and in the news there will be exultant celebration that our oppressive and inequitable taxation regime is falling in favor of one that is more fair and honest.
Oh, happy day! Kalu kalay!
In all seriousness: it has been seven years since our last reassessment, and will probably be at least one more by the time the next one is completed. People will be startled at just how much the landscape will be seen to have transformed by then -- and when the millage is reduced to compensate for generalized appreciation, many City of Pittsburgh property owners will be very pleasantly surprised by the results.
As to what this means in terms of every other county in the Commonwealth -- that's not yet clear, but should be soon.
In the final analysis: despite the time, energy, expense and political capital poured into defending the "Base Year" system, it was indeed a valiant effort to keep a campaign promise and shield affluent voters from routine and necessary requirements of the social contract. Too bad reality had to intrude eventually.
*- UPDATE: Mr. Onorato said he was pleased the court upheld the constitutionality of a base-year system. But he conceded there is a problem... (ibid)
Right. What? No! Lol. Just because the court has not mandated that reassessments be conducted every year does not mean our county's explicit policy of never doing them at all is somehow "constitutional, except with one tiny caveat". Facts are stubborn things.