County reassessment suspended

Lycoming County reassessment has been suspended due to the uncertainties created by the impacts of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 on the value of affected properties, the commissioners decided Thursday.

Time is what the commissioners want, Commissioner Jeff Wheeland said. Not only do they need more sufficient valuation data to properly address the impacts, but they want to see what happens to the law. After all, if the law is repealed, another reassessment would have to be conducted, he said.

The passage of the law caught the county in the middle of the reassessment, which is necessary as one has not been done since 2004 and re-establishes valuation fairness and consistency among all real estate tax parcels. The reassessment began in early 2013.

According to the resolution, “the impacts of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 not only to flood insurance premiums but also to the fair market value and marketability of affected properties are only starting to be fully understood.”

There is simply not enough reliable data to properly assess the full impacts of the law, the resolution states.

What the commissioners do know is the law won’t just affect the 5,355 properties in the county’s floodplain, which constitutes 10 percent of the county’s parcels – when homeowners can’t pay the whopping flood insurance rates dropped from the sky, they’ll have no choice but to abandon the federally backed mortgages – and the other 90 percent will have to shoulder the tax burden, Wheeland said.

“One hundred percent of parcels in the U.S. will be affected directly or indirectly,” Wheeland said.

Carl Nolan, of the county Planning Commission and 30-year real estate agent and appraiser, testified that while the commission recently voted to recommend the commissioners proceed with the reassessment, he opposes the measure.

“These increases of flood insurance are drastically going to affect the valuation of these properties,” Nolan said, and noted that if these homes can’t sell, it will make coming up with values extremely difficult.

When people walk away from their properties, the tax rate will increase on the rest, making their homes more unappealing – this will create a vacuum, Nolan argued.

He pled for the suspension of reassessment.

Vincent Matteo, president and CEO of Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, also testified in favor of suspension on behalf of the chamber.

“The chamber is unanimously calling on the suspension (of reassessment) until we have clearer understanding of values,” Matteo said.