County-Wide Reassessment Under Way

February 25, 2013

The Board of Assessment Appeals for Lycoming County plansto consider adoption of a resolution on Thursday, March 7, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. that begins the process for a County Wide Reassessment. Public comment will be accepted during that meeting. The last county-wide reassessment was conducted in 2004. 

A county-wide reassessment is needed because property values, used to create the tax base, become inconsistent, unfair, and too old to reflect current trends and changes in the value of real estate. It is the legal responsibility of the Lycoming County Board of Assessment Appeals to establish the Fair Market Value of all county real property. This is done to establish a base-year market value for real estate tax purposes.

To achieve a fair and equitable tax base, two primary objectives must be accomplished: A) Market values in the year of a reassessment must be 100 percent of true market value, and B) Properties of similar type, characteristics, and neighborhood must have uniform values.

When this is achieved, each property owner will be paying his or her fair share of the tax burden.

The basic steps to a county-wide reassessment :

  1. Over the last 4 years, properties across the County have been visited to obtain accurate descriptions of property characteristics, and this collected data will be computerized and quality checked. 
  2. Real estate market studies will be conducted to develop formulas for estimating the Fair Market Value for each property, as of January 1, 2014.
  3. Final estimates of value will be determined after consideration of all appropriate approaches to value.
  4. Property owners will receive notice of their new assessed values. 
  5. Informal reviews can be scheduled to give property owners a chance to ask questions, verify information, and present facts about the property that might affect the value.
  6. Owners who dispute the new value may appeal to the Board of Assessment Appeals and present their own evidence of Fair Market Value. 
  7. The owner may appeal the decision of the Board of Assessment Appeals to the Court of Common Pleas.

This process begins with entering the values already calculated. The base year will be designated January 1, 2014, and the new tax base will be effective on January 1, 2015. Property owners will receive additional correspondence from the Lycoming County Assessment Office.

Why Does Lycoming County Need a Reassessment?
A review is needed when the property values that are used to make up the tax base become inconsistent, unfair, or too old to reflect the current trends and changes in the actual value of real estate. It is the legal responsibility of the Board of Assessment to establish the fair market value of all real estate within the County.

This is done to establish a base-year market value for real estate tax purposes.

The last County-wide reassessment in Lycoming County was completed in 2004. This is the base-year for all assessments in the County. These assessments are now nine (9) years old and have already deteriorated to the point where lack of uniformity and a true relationship to market value are evident.

The result -- taxpayers paying more or less than their fair share of the tax burden.

To equalize the tax base and ensure that property owners are only paying their fair share, market values must be at 100 percent of the true market value and there must be uniformity between all properties of like characteristics and value.

Reassessment cannot be used as a means to generate increased revenue. State law requires that after the tax base has been equalized and brought to current market value, the millage rate must be reduced in order to collect the same amount of revenue as the previous tax year.

Reassessment does not necessarily mean that your taxes will increase. In a typical reassessment, about one-third of tax bills will go up, one-third will stay the same, and one-third will go down. Similarly, a tax bill that goes up will not increase by the same percentage that the market value increases due to the fact that the taxing bodies are required to lowertheir millage rate by the same percentage that the total tax base increased.

What is Market Value?
Market value is defined as the most probable price in cash, or terms equivalent to cash, that a property would sell for on the open market, with both the buyer and the seller acting knowledgeably and prudently and neither being under any duress. In other words, the price most people would pay for the property in its present condition.

It is the obligation of the Assessment Office to review and value all property within the County. To establish the market value of any piece of property, the Assessment Office must first determine what properties similar to it are selling for, what it would cost to replace it, how much it takes to operate it and keep it in good repair, what rent it may earn, and many other facts affecting its value, such as the current rate of interest charged for borrowing the money to buy or to build a similar property.

The Valuation Process
The appraiser is required by law to consider all three approaches to value-the Market or Sales Approach, the Cost Approach, and the Income Approach. After considering all appropriate approaches to value, a final correlated Fair Market Value is determined. All appraisals will be performed by state-certified appraisers.

How Will the Reassessment be Done?
It is the duty of the Assessment Office to review and value all property within the County. Accurate appraisals require constant research to obtain significant facts to analyze in order to estimate the fair market value of a property.

Every property in the County has been visited at least once in the past four years to obtain accurate descriptions and characteristics. All residential property owners will be mailed the information that is currently on record for that property. If there area any errors, property owners are encouraged to notify the office with the necessary corrections.

Real estate market studies will now be conducted to develop formulas for estimating fair market values.

Sales verification questionnaires will be sent to new property owners to obtain further information.

Questionnaires will also be sent to all owners of commercial properties to gather information needed to compile up-to-date rent and expense tables.

Final estimates of value are determined after consideration of all appropriate approaches to valuation using the data gathered above. Notification of the new fair market value will be mailed to property owners on or before July 1, 2014.

Property owners will have the opportunity to meet with professional staff to ask questions, verify information and present evidence of market value in an informal review.

Property owners may appeal their market value to the Board of Assessment Appeals and to the Court of Common Pleas.

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