Commissioner talks reassessment at Rotary meeting

While the wheels already are in motion for Lycoming County’s property reassessment, Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland took the message to the public Monday at a meeting of the Williamsport Rotary Club.

Commissioners approved a countywide property reassessment at their March 7 meeting. County assessment staff are now evaluating statistics neighborhood by neighborhood, according to Fran McJunkin, county deputy director for GIS and assessment, who accompanied Wheeland.

The last reassessment was completed nine years ago. Just before the process began at that time, a number of factors preceded reassessment, Wheeland said.

A separate line item for a library tax was included on county tax bills, the board commissioners approved a tax hike and a ratio that determined market values of property was increased by 25 percent, he said.

“We’re not doing any of that. This is your plain Jane reassessment,” Wheeland said.

The commissioner said that property values have become inconsistent, unfair and outdated since the last reassessment.

Pennsylvania remains just one of six states that does not have mandated, regular property reassessments, he added.

Wheeland cited a 2010 study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania that indicated counties experience a more taxation equality when regular property reassessments are conducted.

Wheeland and McJunkin also conceded that it was the Muncy School Board that forced the county’s hand into the reassessment process when it appealed the assessed value of more than 80 properties in the school district last fall.

“It was a big motivator because we knew the rest of the school districts were ready to go out and cherry pick,” Wheeland said.

The county officials tried to dispel myths that property owner’s taxes automatically go up and the county reaps the benefits with additional tax dollars.

In reality, they said, the county’s millage rate will decrease to reflect a neutral revenue, as required by law. However, the county may be able to generate about $1 million from the process, which may be used to offset the costs of conducting the reassessment, Wheeland previously said.

McJunkin said the county has a good base from which to begin the process.

“Over the last four years, we have visited every house in Lycoming County,” she said.

More than 50,000 parcels are evaluated based on their age and approximate condition, she added.

McJunkin said “all of our assessors do not go into your house. It’s all exterior.” Any county assessor in the field should have appropriate identification, she said.

Property owners should watch for surveys in the mail this fall with basic property information and verify their accuracy. New property values will be mailed in June 2014. Informal appeals may be made with the county’s assessment office, with formal appeals filed by Sept. 1, 2014. Final values will go into effect June 1, 2015.

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