Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday: Making Our Way

The Voters' Choice property tax referendum has been tabled 5-3 by City Council with the stated intention of it growing all moldy and cobwebby -- which might be just as well, because it represented only one possible remedy for a devilish problem and a very indirect remedy at that.

According to info distributed by Councilman Burgess's office, here are the city neighborhoods enjoying the top 5 average per-parcel tax breaks, due to inherent and presently exacerbated problems with property assessments. The methodology employed was to compare assessment values with sale prices. (I am awaiting background materials in an electronic format by which to better share the research.)

Shadyside: On average, under-taxed by $1073.70
Squirrel Hill North: On average, under-taxed by $1006.96
Point Breeze: On average, under-taxed by $962.61
Washington's Landing: On average, under-taxed by $959.86
South Side Flats: On average, under-taxed by $901.71

And here are the 5 city neighborhoods paying more than their seeming fair share in property taxes, as compared with sale values.

Northview Heights: On average, over-taxed by $1,040.65
New Homestead: On average, over-taxed by $670.90
St. Clair: On average, over-taxed by $222.23
Fairywood: On average, over-taxed by $176.96
Homewood North: On average, over-taxed by $170.19

It seems like something especially aberrant is going on in Northview Heights and New Homestead. However and even at that, it shouldn't take an economic demographer to point out that your average resident in Fairywood or Homewood North is probably impacted by improper $170 annual premiums at least as much as would the average Shadyside or North Squirrel Hill resident be impacted by a justifiable $1,000 correction.

Reportedly, several on City Council recommended that if voters want the power to sign off on any increase in the rate of property taxation (given these problems) then they can do so by organizing and collecting the several thousand signatures necessary to put it on the ballot their own selves. Which is a reasonable position, if Burgess's proposed remedy to the problem just doesn't strike your fancy.

But in the meanwhile, what are we going to do about this? Because ignoring the problem entirely would be unconscionable.

Can we at least begin by formally demanding that the County voluntarily assess properties every year, despite the fact the political class is then unjustifiably held "responsible" for voters' homes appreciating in value? That would be a start. What else?


Just a few more stories:

About 650 million people visit strip clubs each year — more than four times the combined number who attend professional basketball, baseball, football and hockey games, Levy said. (Trib, Rick Wills)

Is that 650 million persons or visits? Because some of those patrons probably visit more than once a year. And is that in America or worldwide? And was it impossible for the article to find a perspective not from within the actual adult entertainment industry? It seems like, I don't know, kind of a fluff piece.

Clicking right along, Pittsburgh has been ranked by America's premiere gay and lesbian magazine as the 5th "gayest" city in the nation. Their methodology is a bit befuddling, and then some, but hey a ranking is a ranking. (PghLesCorr)

Finally, this came over the wire just this very mid-day...

What was again?

Oh, right. Well, good to know the hot war rages on.


  1. Northview Heights & Homewood North are basically Housing Authority sites where all the residents live in government housing.

  2. St. Clair is another area where no one lives anymore. It was all a housing authority project where people lived in government housing.

  3. For the sake of more completeness, here are the remaining neighborhoods which the study indicates are overtaxed by more than $100+. Which is not to imply there are no legitimate methodological hiccups to be sniffed out.

    Bedford Dwellings $115.09
    Beltzhoover $144.32
    East Hills $117.22
    Esplen $129.61
    Glen Hazel $112.86
    Homewood West $114.87
    Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar $152.38
    Spring Garden $140.19

    There is also the issue, in this time of skyrocketing legacy costs, impending service cuts and raining frogs, that the composite effect of the larger bulk of landed gentry receiving a tax break means that governments and schools are missing out on a windfall to which all taxpayers are ordinarily entitled. Of course there's that word "windfall".

  4. Wow, Bill Peduto is a haughty...well, I'll respect the rules around here. Nice to see his constituents are being underbilled, because at least they aren't paying market rates for his gasbag sarah palin impersonation.

  5. Homewood north demographics:

    notice 53% of households are in owner-occupied units, at least in 1999. I do not have reason to believe this would have changed significantly.

    I do hope some resolution to this issue is obtained, because this disparity seems pretty bad.

  6. The folks in those communities aren't contributing anything to the city by way of property taxes.

    No one seems to pay property taxes in Homewood North or Northview Heights. 40%+ tax delinquency.


    Burgess comparing himself to Thomas Jefferson? Really?

    He also talks about Jefferson writing the Constitution. Ummm Jefferson has no part in that. He was in France at that time.

  8. The tax inequities due to lack of a regular assessment are real, but Burgess is out of his mind if he thinks that the solution is to put property tax increases to a referendum. When you have a referendum like that, it's never set up to benefit poor people, and instead becomes a convenient avenue for "anti-tax" demagogy from the right wing. The people who get psyched up to vote are what Mike Davis (in Prisoners of the American Dream) called "insurgent middle strata"; it's the same mentality that brought Howard Jarvis's Prop 13 in California, and will inevitably exacerbate inequities rather than fixing them.

    Start putting property taxes to referendum -- the way they do with their "levies" in Ohio -- and watch already-troubled schools and city services lose funding.