Beaver County must proceed with a reassessment of every property in the county for tax purposes, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has ordered.
The Commonwealth Court issued their ruling today upholding a ruling issued last December by then-Common Pleas Judge John McBride and Judge Dale Fouse in a case brought by local real estate tycoon CJ Betters.
Beaver County currently assesses properties for tax purposes based on a base-year valuation from 1982, the last time a county-wide reassessment was performed. In its original 31-page decision, the court outlined facts about the county’s current taxing scheme that were presented in the case:
“There has not been an application of, or change to, new construction tables or property characteristics to account for modern construction techniques or new building types/uses for assessment valuation and taxation purposed since 1982. Beaver County operates under a base-year assessment program, under which no changes have been made to its valuation rate tables since 1982. Property values in various neighborhoods within a county can change at different rates. Properties in higher value neighborhoods can appreciate at higher rates than property values in low value neighborhoods.”
Judges McBride and Fouse determined that the county’s current taxing scheme has now reached a point of inequity that violates provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
“While the Plaintiffs have not provided evidence that they are paying more than they should be, they have provided more than enough evidence and testimony to show that across Beaver County there are numerous citizens paying more and numerous citizens paying less than their share, thereby overwhelmingly proving the issue of non-uniformity and that the scheme of valuation used in Beaver County is causing mass misassessment.”
County Commissioners had appealed the ruling by McBride and Fouse, alleging errors were made by the court in evidentiary rulings made during the original nonjury trial. The Commonwealth Court’s decision today upheld decisions made the local court.
“The County asks whether the trial court erred by refusing to exclude objected-to expert testimony and in determining that Taxpayers were entitled to relief despite the fact that they did not introduce any evidence that they have suffered a specific harm to their particular properties. Discerning no error, we affirm.”
County Commissioners now have the option of appealing to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, although as of the time of this report they have not yet made a decision on whether they will do so. An appeal would likely stay the reassessment until after the state Supreme Court decides if they will hear the case, which the court is not obligated to do.
Barring further appeals, or a rejection by the Supreme Court, a decision on when the county must complete its reassessment would likely be determined by a scheduling order from the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas.
Early estimates on the cost to perform the reassessment have been in excess of $8 million.
BeaverCountian.com is making the entire Commonwealth Court opinion available, which can be read in full here.