LAWRENCE COUNTY Customers question fair market value

County commissioners want to delay reassessment for one year.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- There seem to be a lot of questions about the new fair market values sent to Lawrence County property owners, but relatively few appeals.
"We are hectic. Lots of customers and telephone calls," said Mary Bullano, chief assessor for Lawrence County.
While people are standing in line outside the assessor's office and the telephones are ringing nonstop, so far there have been less than 50 people seeking appeal hearings to dispute their new values, she said Monday.
This is the first full week the county assessor's office will be handling questions and setting appeal hearings for Lawrence County's first reassessment in nearly 40 years.
Notices alerting property owners of the new assessment, and stating the old assessment, were mailed July 1 and 2 to all property owners.
The county is keeping close watch on the number of appeals filed.
County commissioners are hoping to get reassessment delayed for one year. The county is now under court order to complete reassessment by the end of this year.
Commissioners argue that they expect a large number of property assessment appeals -- too many for the county appeals board to handle. They believe the appeals won't be completed before the county and municipalities must set their 2003 budgets, making it impossible for communities to know how much revenue they will get next year.
Delay opposed
New Castle officials opposed the delay and took the county to court to uphold the original schedule.
Common Pleas Court Judge J. Craig Cox is expected to decide after all appeals are filed.
Bullano said her staff is mostly being questioned about the large jump in property value from the last assessment to the new one, not appeals.
Bullano noted some people are confused because the old number -- which is in some cases about 40 years old -- is much lower. She explained that number is hard to compare to the new one because it is only 75 percent of the previous fair market value, the amount the county based its taxes on until this year.
The county is now basing its taxes on 100 percent of the fair market value, she said.
Property owners have until early August to file appeals. Appeal forms are available at the county courthouse, libraries and area municipal buildings with daily hours.

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