Some property owners in the Central Bucks School District soon could be getting some unpleasant news in their mailboxes.
The school board on Tuesday voted to appeal the assessments of up to 200 properties deemed to be “out of whack” with their true market value. Depending on how many assessments are successfully appealed, the district stands to make about $300,000, according to the district's business manager Dave Matyas.
A property’s assessment is used to determine school district, county and municipal tax bills. The assessed value is multiplied by the millage rate to calculate the amount of tax due.
Over the last few years, the district has lost about $4 million in revenue because property owners have successfully reduced their assessments due to the overall slump in housing prices. The district is aiming to recoup some of those losses by targeting older properties whose values have skyrocketed but whose tax assessments have not gone up since the last countywide reassessment in 1972.
The deadline to file the appeals is August 1, which means the district will target only a fraction of the 35,000 properties it could, said Matyas.
“We have less than a week,” he said. “We just don’t have the time. This will be way to test the process more than anything else.”
The district has not seen a final list of properties whose assessments will be appealed, said Matyas.
It will cost the district $25 to file each residential property assessment appeal, and $100 for each commercial property appeal, according to school district solicitor Jeff Garton. Including the filing, attorney time, and the $10,000 fee paid to Residential Tax Analysis Group for determining the market value of every property in the district, Matyas estimated it will cost the district about $225 to appeal each property.
In approving the policy Tuesday, the board said it would not appeal an assessment unless the district stands to receive at least $500 in new revenue.
After the appeal is filed, the property owner will be notified by the county Board of Assessment Appeals and invited to attend a hearing. Property owners will be able to offer evidence to try to persuade the board to deny the district's appeal, said Garton.
Hearings are held in October. If an assessment is changed, it will take effect for county and local municipality taxes on January 1, and the school district on July 1, said Garton.
Last year, the district tried to appeal the assessments of 130 properties, using sales data to determine market value. The Board of Assessment Appeals rejected each one, saying the district did not provide enough evidence.
Geri McMullin was the lone board member to vote against the appeals Tuesday night. She predicted many properties in Doylestown Borough will be particularly hard hit.
“A lot of them won’t be able to afford it,” she said, of the town she has represented for years. She is up for re-election in November.
McMullin said she was surprised the school board would choose an arbitrary formula to determine which property assessments would be appealed. She said she preferred to keep the policy that was in place last year, and to supplement it with the appraisal data.
“Who are we to pick and choose which property gets reassessed?” she said.
McMullin called on the Bucks County Commissioners to initiate a countywide reassessment.
“This is a job the county commissioners should be doing, not us,” she said.