LAWRENCE COUNTY Reassessment notices bring many questions

Some property owners will receive new notices. County officials found some errors in the initial numbers.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- There's an endless ringing sound coming from the Lawrence County Assessor's office these days.
Chief County Assessor Mary Bullano said her office has received nonstop telephone calls since new notices of the fair market value of all property in Lawrence County went out Monday.
"Most people are calling because the don't understand what the numbers mean," Bullano said.
Workers are telling homeowners to decide if the number sent by mail represents what they believe they could get if they sold their property on the open real estate market.
Bullano said homeowners must be honest and decide what they could get if they put their home on the market.
The property valuations are part of Lawrence County's first reassessment in nearly 40 years.
Handling appeals: Manatron Sabre Systems, the Ohio company hired by commissioners to do the countywide reassessment, is handling all appeals for those disputing the preliminary values. Hearings are in a building adjacent to the county jail on Milton Street.
Sabre officials say they expect about 14 percent, or 8,100 property owners, to appeal.
Bullano said her office has received numerous complaints that people can't reach Sabre's Lawrence County office by telephone because of constant busy signals.
"I'm telling them to keep trying. They have eight working telephone lines and you will eventually get through," she said.
Bullano is advising people to call when Sabre's office opens at 8:30 a.m. or closer to 5 p.m. when it closes.
Errors found: The chief assessor said a handful of errors have been found since the preliminary market values went out to property owners and some people will get new notices in the mail.
Problems occurred when some residential property values were calculated as being part of a commercial area. Other errors were found by property owners who said their home was listed on the wrong lot or some home values were listed as zero, she said.
"These are mistakes and this is when we want to find them," Bullano said.
Commissioner Ed Fosnaught said he also has been getting numerous calls from residents since the reassessment notices hit mailboxes earlier this week.
Fosnaught, a frequent critic of the reassessment, is advising anyone who questions the value placed on property to appeal.
He added that anyone unsure of what their home would sell for on the open market should look at values placed on similar homes in their neighborhood. They also should look at recent home sales, he said.
County officials have not set the ratio by which property taxes will be set next year when the new values go into effect, and it's unclear how the reassessment will effect individual tax bills.

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