For those of you who may have missed it, Onorato attempted to address my property tax question during his cyber town hall meeting. I was pleasantly surprised to see my question addressed and not tossed aside. I was also pleased to hear him attempt to tackle other tough questions, and I was pleased to see him reaching out to the community, especially involving high school students, in such a down-to-earth accessible manner.
However, I have to say I wasn't completely satisfied with his answer.
He made many points (which I've paraphrased below.)
1) The 2001 and 2002 assessments were performed very poorly.
I have no idea why there were back-to-back re-assessments in this county. That was before my time. Clearly, there is absolutely no need to waste tax-payers money re-assessing every single year. I'd be perfectly happy with a planned 3-4 year cycle of re-assessments.
2) The city spent a lot of money and time on appeals relating to the 2001-2 re-assessments.
If those re-assessments were performed so poorly, then the team should be fired, and a new re-assessment team should be hired. If 180,000 people filed appeals, that's a broken re-assessment system.
3) He canceled the 2006 re-assessment (which he is proud of.)
Let me share a story. While I was living in Connecticut, the state found that the emissions testers were corrupt. They temporarily canceled all emissions testing in the state while they attempted to create a new clean system. Then a few years later, they re-started emissions testing with the new system in place.
If Dan Onorato were in charge of emissions testing in Connecticut, his analogous response would have been to cancel emissions testing forever because the particular system wasn't working. He would defend this stance for the rest of his term by pointing to how corrupt the old system was.
4) He said that 85% of property values increased when properties were re-assessed.
Let's get something straight. Housing prices (in a normal society) increase. It's perfectly natural and expected that prices will increase. In fact, if housing prices didn't increase we'd be in trouble. HOWEVER, the increased value of an assessed house SHOULD NOT mean increased property tax. When values go up, the county or the city or whomever, SHOULD adjust the mill rate DOWN so that the net result for them is about the same. Is there a law against that in Harrisburg???
He said: "County school districts and the municipalities all base their property taxes off the assessed values". If these school districts and municipalities refuse to lower their mill rate, then they are ripping off their citizens. That is where the offense should be - not the ridiculous stance of pretending property values haven't changed in 40 years.
5) Other counties around us follow the base-year assessment strategy.
In summation, Dan says all the other counties are refusing to fix the system, so why should he?
If all the other counties can break the law and propagate inequity, why can't he?
Dan, stop whining and do something about this unfair setup. That's how you'll prove you're capable of being governor.
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