The Central Bucks School District on Tuesday approved a settlement with a Warrington apartment complex that will net the district increased property tax revenue.
It is the first decision in a string of assessment appeals the district has filed this year, and seemingly vindicates the board's three-year quest to challenge what it says are properties that are under-assessed.
The settlement means that The Park at Westminster Associates will pay about $128,000 more in property taxes to the public school district each year, board solicitor Jeff Garton said during a school board meeting.
The assessment of the property that is home to The Park at Westminster, at 600 Valley Rd., is an example of the problems school districts face when properties are not regularly reassessed for tax purposes.
The Bucks County Board of Assessment had the property valued at about $14 million, Garton said. But the property's owner said it was worth $21 million and the appraiser the school district hired to challenge the assessment said it was worth $25 million, board member Stephen Corr said.
The district and the property owner agreed to set the market value of the property at $23 million, Garton said.
That means the Central Bucks School District will reap about $128,000 more in tax money each year from that one property, Garton said.
"The recovery on just this one settlement will far exceed" the district's costs to challenge the assessments, Corr said.
"And we’ll get it every year going forward," board member Tyler Tomlinson pointed out.
The district still is awaiting decisions on the other assessment appeals it filed this year, about 37 residential properties and eight commercial properties, school board president Paul Faulkner said after the meeting.
Still, no one was celebrating the decision Tuesday.
Faulkner said he thinks the district was correct in appealing the assessments but said he remains concerned about the entire process.
"The methodology of funding public education is broken," Faulkner said.
"A county-wide reassessment doesn't make sense, because you'd be driving people out of their homes," he said. "But reassessment at the time of sale wouldn't hurt the property owner."
This was the district's third attempt to challenge tax assessments.
In 2010, the district tried to appeal the assessments of 124 properties, using sales data to determine market value. The Board of Assessment Appeals rejected each one, saying the district did not provide enough evidence to support its claims.
In 2011, the district planned to appeal the assessments of up to 200 properties deemed to be out of line with their market value, hoping to reap about $300,000. But the administration missed an August 1 deadline because it had less than a week to prepare the appeals.
Those two attempts cost the district about $20,000.
Bucks County has not reassessed property values since 1972. Since then, the district contends, many older properties' values have skyrocketed but tax assessments have not gone up.
Central Bucks decided to challenge assessed values to make up for lost ground. The district has lost millions in property tax revenue in recent years, as property owners successfully petitioned the county to lower the assessed values of their homes during the recession.
- Central Bucks to Appeal Assessments of 44 Properties
- Deadline Snafu Causes Central Bucks to Miss Chance for $1 Million Boost
- CB Schools to Appeal Assessments