Citing the significant disparities between comparable properties in reassessed values released thus far, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner's office will evaluate the more than $8 million in contracts with Tyler Technologies, Inc. for the period of June 2010 through the end of this year, as well as conduct an independent study of property values and analyze the appeals process.
"With even more reassessed values being released to property owners today, Allegheny County taxpayers are still in the dark about what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to change in this process," Ms. Wagner said.
A key aspect of the investigation will be examining the contracts with Tyler Technologies, Inc., the Texas-based firm hired by the county to conduct the assessments. In a letter to the county's Director of Administrative Services, Timothy Johnson, Ms. Wagner notified the department of the pending study and asked for full cooperation throughout. The Department of Administrative Services houses the Office of Property Assessment, which contracted with Tyler Technologies to lead the latest reassessment.
"We have all heard examples of the curious or even shocking new values received by some property owners, like the parking space in Mt. Washington worth $287,000," Ms. Wagner said. "We intend to find out whether the county asked for and required the right things in its contracts with Tyler, and whether the company lived up to them."
Property owners are encouraged to assist with Ms. Wagner's efforts by passing along concerns about their new assessed values to the Reassessment Hotline at 412- 350-7618 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The controller's probe will also include an independent Sales Ratio Study to determine if the new assessed values are comparable to recent sales prices in a given geographic area. This analysis will begin with the City of Pittsburgh and expand as more data is certified and made available.
"The reason for regular reassessments is to determine actual values. The market is perhaps the best indicator of what properties are worth. If the assessed values are not reflecting sales prices, we have a problem that is going to cost both the county and many property owners," Ms. Wagner said
The investigation will result in recommendations for making future assessments more efficient, transparent, and fair.
"Although there has been a one-year reprieve, we cannot lose a moment in ensuring that property owners understand and have confidence in this process. Our study will provide suggestions to prevent mistakes from being repeated in the future," Ms. Wagner said.