Supreme Court May Look at Taxing Bodies’ Ability to Appeal Undervalued Property

On March 10, 2005, a Petition of Allowance of Appeal was filed before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. At issue is whether a taxing body can appeal what it believes to be a low assessment. These off-assessment-year appeals are sometimes criticized as “spot assessments.”

Earlier this year, the petitioning party, the Vees, lost their argument against the Commonwealth Court. In Vees, the Palmerton Area School District filed an appeal with the Carbon County Board of Assessment Appeals, arguing that the fair market value of the Vees’ property should equal the purchase price ($170,000 in April 2002), not the county figure ($92,250 as assessed in 2001). The board increased the fair market value to $161,900.

The Vees appealed to the trial court, which sustained the board. They then appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which sustained the lower court and stated that the change in value was not “initiated by a body possessing the power to prepare or revise assessment rolls, value property, change the value of property, or establish the predetermined ratio.” Rather, the process was initiated by the school district that filed an appeal pursuant to valid procedures.

Whether the Supreme Court accepts the Vees’ appeal and the content of any ultimate decision remain to be seen. Our attorneys will continue to monitor these issues.

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