Commissioners mull board for assessment appeals

Lycoming County commissioners were divided between efficiency and legitimacy Tuesday, concerning the existence of an independent board of assessment appeals to examine real estate tax appeals.

Under county resolutions, the commissioners must appoint their current board members to four years, or two years. However, whether to absolve the independent board is a separate decision.

Brooke Wright, chief assessor for the county tax assessment office, said the majority of counties use an independent assessment appeals board.

“Out of 67 counties (in Pennsylvania), 34 of them have independent boards of real estate appeals and the commissioners listen to the exceptions,” she said.

Advocating for the absolution of the board since his election, Commissioners Rick Mirabito said there are positive and negative aspects to either decision, but would like to deal with appeals directly.

“It would just put us in better touch with what’s happening,” he said.

Rather than having an appointed and independent board of assessment, allowing the commissioners to deal with appeals would open the electorate up to decide if their decisions were appropriate. As elected officials, if citizens disapproved of judgments, commissioners could be voted out, said Mirabito.

Regardless, a decision to reappoint board of assessment appeals members for four years would tie down the next administration with the predecessors’ choices, which he would not support.

Commissioners Tony Mussare agreed with Mirabito’s final point, however said he felt like the independent board was necessary.

“I’m only fearful that at the end of this year the Biggert-Waters Act insurance rates will be at full rate and there’s no question in my mind you’ll be hearing about a lot of appeals,” he said.

The act was an attempt by federal legislatures to keep the National Flood Insurance Program afloat by charging higher premiums, which program officials said more accurately reflected the danger posed by floods.

The commissioners chose to table the matter.

In other business, the commissioners accepted the agreement to continue the licensing of county-used software.

Annually, Core licensing of Microsoft is slated to cost $143,578.12 and the structured query language licensing is slated to cost $32,346.48, totaling $175,924.60, said Karl Demi, director of information technology.

“This is an agreement we entered into with (County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania) that achieved a better pricing by joining with other counties,” said Demi. “This is much farther below retail pricing.”

Over the course of three years, it is projected to save the county $46,000.

The commissioner’s next meeting is scheduled to be held at 10 a.m., Thursday, in the Commissioners’ Briefing Room in Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.