spot assessment

PA House Bill 1213 – An answer to ‘Spot Assessments’ or tying the hands of school districts and municipalities? State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) and TE School District take opposing sides

In the last few days, local residents have received notices from the TE School District and State Representative Warren Kampf (R-157) with opposing views on PA House Bill 1213.

What is HB 1213 and why does the school district oppose the bill and why does our state representative support it?

In summary, the PA House Bill 1213 would establish that school districts and municipalities may not appeal the assessment of property based on purchase or sale of the property.

When the HB 1213 first surfaced last year, the TE School Board passed a resolution in May 2017 opposing the proposed legislation, believing that it would restrict the District’s ability to initiate property tax assessment appeals. In its February 2, 2018 newsletter, the District restates its opposition to the bill, stating the following:

HB 1213 is harmful to Pennsylvania schools for a number of reasons:

  • HB 1213 restricts a school district’s ability to initiate property tax assessment appeals.
  • If commercial or residential properties are permitted to pay taxes below the market assessment, remaining taxpayers will pay higher taxes to maintain school programs.
  • The bill maintains the property owner’s ability to appeal their assessment, setting up an unfair system. To date, TESD has lost property tax revenue in excess of $5 million through taxpayer-initiated appeals.

Over the past four years, TESD has successfully appealed properties that were undervalued based on economic factors using market-based sales data and the courts have agreed. These TESD-initiated property assessment appeals have produced almost $600,000 in new property tax revenue to fund the District’s educational program.   Lost revenue opportunities may lead to program cuts for students, increased fees for families, or higher taxes to property owners who already pay their fair share.

As sponsor of PA House Bill 1213, State Rep Kampf has previously stated that, “As the law now stands – without the enactment of House Bill 1213 – some of our state courts have given the 500 school districts and more than 3,000 local townships and municipalities in Pennsylvania the power to pick any single property and appeal its County assessment. As a result, they can (and do) challenge the assessment of a single property and, in the end, they raise taxes on that property owner alone. This is called spot assessment.”

Kampf challenged TESD’s latest newsletter as “misleading and plainly incomplete explanation of the bill” with his release of ‘Setting the Record Straight on House Bill 1213’ to residents yesterday, making the following points:

1/ The Pennsylvania Supreme Court this summer unanimously ruled that school districts were not allowed to target only commercial properties for spot assessing. This means that, if school districts undertake spot assessments, from now on they must do so to every type of property – including homes like yours and mine. Which home is picked is up to your school board to decide. That I know of, T/E has never spot assessed a home, but now—because they apparently have chosen to go forward with the practice—they must by law also target homes.

2/ House Bill 1213, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, would limit spot assessments by school districts to protect all property taxpayers from unfair targeting. Again, a spot assessment is where the school district targets and reassesses only your property, but does not reassess your neighbor’s even though your neighbor’s property is also under-assessed. Quite simply, spot assessment is inherently unfair and could even be maliciously undertaken if a school district chose to do so. The district is under no obligation to reassess all properties in a neighborhood or commercial district. They can simply pick one property and spot assess it alone.

3/ T/E says in its email it opposes HB 1213, which means they are going to start picking some homes for spot assessment. I would venture to say, since Chester County has not had a reassessment since 1997, virtually 80% of our homes are under-assessed, many significantly.

Your school district has decided that it will follow a path resulting in significant increases in valuation and property taxes for only select homeowners; these homeowners could see school property tax increases of 100%, or even 200%.

As we learned in recent arguments in the Supreme Court, it is also clear that very few school districts across the state follow this practice in any way. They either keep costs within the existing tax base, or they raise taxes on all properties, but they do not target individual properties.

Apparently, T/E finds it more important to obtain revenue than it does to protect you. I am further shocked that our school district would say such a practice is acceptable to them given that the amounts the school district admits to raising from this practice in the past equal 1/2 of 1% of their total annual budget.

4/ The school district also made a conscious decision to withhold in its email important information about HB 1213 as it is amended today. Currently, the legislation (at the request of school districts) allows a school district to try to raise the assessed value of a property if the property owner had previously obtained a reduction of that assessed amount by their own appeal. This addresses any issue of fairness.

In closing, Rep Kampf stands behind the PA House Bill 1213, stating that he “cannot sit by and allow school districts to target certain properties and create both a risky atmosphere in which to own a home, and an unpredictable place to make an investment.”

So … As a Pennsylvania resident, do you support or oppose the proposed legislation?

Do you believe that without the enactment of PA House Bill 1213, that (as Pennsylvania residents) we are at risk for “spot assessment” by our school districts and local municipalities?

Or, do you believe that the passage of PA House Bill 1213 would tie the hands of school districts and municipalities to challenge under assessed property taxes, therefore making it more unfair to the average homeowner?

Couldn’t the problem be solved with regularly scheduled property assessments?  On a personal note, my husband and I have purchased several investments properties on the South Carolina coast in the last couple of years — in South Carolina, property assessments are routine, every 5 years, eliminating the need for proposed legislation, like PA House Bill 1213.

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