The Lycoming County property reassessment: No fun, but necessary

Lycoming County’s proposed 2019 budget includes a lot of expensive projects, the worth of which can be debated.

But the $1 million set aside to begin a reassessment of properties in the county is warranted.

The total cost of the reassessment is estimated at about $3 million, and the revised reassessments will not be on tax rolls until 2021 or 2022 at the earliest.

The results of the reassessment typically are higher taxes for a third of the properties, lower taxes for a third of them and no change for the rest.

So the reassessment is costly, the results take awhile and the payback is varied for taxpayers.

Unfortunately, it’s been a decade between reassessments and, given the ever changing landscape of real estate, the longer the time between reassessments the more out of touch the tax rates are with the value of properties.

And unrealistic property assessments are not good for the real estate market, the ability to attract new development and the fairness of tax bills paid by property owners.

Some counties have begun levying sales taxes as a means to reduce the importance of real estate taxes.

The reasoning is that everyone pays sales taxes, so it’s the more complete and fair way for the tax burden to be shared.

The idea is worth looking into.

But it’s not realistic to expect a sales tax to completely compensate for real estate taxes and carry a budget as large as Lycoming County’s.

Given the limited number of vendors who do reassessments, the county needs to bite the bullet, set aside the funds and get in line for a reassessment for the good of taxpayers and the overall integrity of the local real estate market and planning for future county budgets.