Property assessment reform bill clears Pennsylvania House

After nearly a decade of work, the state task force on overhauling the commonwealth's property valuation system is starting off with relatively simple legislation.

Pennsylvania counties can go decades without updating their property values due to relatively lax state laws, with results that are inequitable for taxpayers.

The task force currently charged with overhauling the state’s property valuation system has been working on it for nearly a decade, and just got a couple bills to floor votes.

They’re starting off relatively simply.

State law already says that anyone directly involved in assessing property has to be a certified Pennsylvania evaluator, or CPE.

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One bill would designate two seats for certified evaluators on their accreditation and oversight agency: the state Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers.

Another measure deals with CPE certification.

Currently, the process entails passing an exam after 90 hours of training, with an update required every two years.

The same requirements would apply to people who create models for estimating property values, under a proposal passed by the state House of Representatives Tuesday.

Of 48 lawmakers opposing the measure (all Republicans), we reached out to those who had supported at the committee level in June. None of them immediately responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

Both bills are with the state Senate’s Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

County assessment offices and private valuation companies working in Pennsylvania currently don’t hire developers who aren’t CPE’s anyway, according to Local Government Commission Research Associate Danette Magee.

So the change would basically just codify what’s already general practice, Magee says.

But the Commission’s Assessment Reform Task Force has other measures in the queue. Examples include tightening training requirements for county appeal board members, piloting a standard information collection form, and standardizing the system for determining when a county’s due for a revaluation.

And most would either require significant investment, or change at least some aspects of how many counties do business — or both — in the name of increasing accountability, transparency and uniformity.

The current incarnation of the task force involves more stakeholders than its first in 2009. Back then, its work focused on doing research and producing reports to inform the recommendations behind recent and forthcoming legislation.

In 2010, state lawmakers consolidated property reassessment codes, merging seven (one for each county classification, minus Philadelphia) into one.

While significant, that’s been the only policy change produced by nearly a decade of study by the task force and its predecessor workgroups, according to Doug Hill, who heads both the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and the Assessors Association of Pennsylvania.


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