I found the following article in the Nov. 24 edition of The Intelligencer and thought I would share it on my blog.
But the school board president said the district will continue with future appeals.
The 130 homeowners whose property assessments Central Bucks School District appealed are off the hook.
But future homebuyers aren't.
School Board President Stephen Corr said Tuesday night that the school board does not intend to appeal the Bucks County Board of Assessment's rejection of its assessment appeals.
"We understand what the Board of Assessments said," Corr said. "We're going to go forward with our policy and meet the requirements for future appeals."
Board of Assessment member Russ Kavana, who presided over all 130 hearings, said earlier this month that he didn't think the school district presented enough evidence to support its appeals. So if the school board files future appeals, it will need more than the sale price as evidence; it will likely have to pay for appraisals of the properties.
Central Bucks lost about $4 million in property tax revenue last year when property owners across the district had their assessments lowered. The school board decided in March to try to recoup some of that money by appealing the assessments of recently sold properties it believed were underassessed.
School district staff spent uncounted hours reviewing the sale prices and assessments of all properties in the district that sold since July 1, 2009. They used the sale price to come up with a theoretical assessed value, which was calculated by dividing the state's "common level ratio" into the sale price. The common level ratio is a comparison between assessed and market values. In Bucks County in 2009, the common level ratio was 10.9.
The district appealed the assessments of properties if the theoretical assessed value was at least 15 percent greater than the county's assessed value, and the theoretical assessment would generate at least $500 more in additional revenue for the school district over a three-year period.
Central Bucks filed 130 appeals - 113 residential and 17 commercial - in eight municipalities. The district did not appeal the assessments of any properties in Chalfont.
The school district paid $6,950 in filing fees, according to district business manager Dave Matyas. He estimated that the district would pay its solicitor another $2,500 to represent the district in the assessment appeal hearings.
The Board of Assessment held two days of hearings near the end of October. During the hearings, school district solicitor Jeff Garton withdrew six of the appeals because the properties were being developed or had recently been developed and the assessment office was in the process of reassessing them.
The district stood to gain about $370,000 in revenue - less than 0.14 percent of its budget - if it won the appeals.
And property owners would have seen their taxes increase by a range of 17 percent to 300 percent.
The Bucks County Board of Assessment rejected all of the appeals earlier this month.
At the time, the "Targeted Taxpayers," as a group of the homeowners called themselves, were hesitant to celebrate, because they feared the district would appeal the board's decision.
Joshua Laff, a Doylestown attorney who represented more than 20 of the property owners, said Tuesday night he was glad to hear the district would not appeal.
"That's great for the benefit of all these individuals who have been sitting on pins and needles for these last few months. I'm sure they're going to be thrilled," he said.
"I realize that the school board is dealing with certain budgetary constraints, however, adopting a 'welcome stranger' litigation policy is not the answer. In these economic times, we should be welcoming new homeowners into our community with open arms, not a Notice of Appeal."
Laff said he thought the school district should lobby the state Legislature to change the assessment laws, "rather than wasting taxpayer funds and placing the Board of Assessment Appeals in the difficult position of having to rule on these particular appeals."
Christina Kristofic can be reached at 215-345-3079 or ckristofic@phillyBurbs.com. Follow Christina on Twitter at twitter.com/ckristofic
November 24, 2010 02:20 AM