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Moratorium on Court-Ordered Property Tax Reassessments Passed

State Rep. Jesse White said the current property tax reassessment system "has more holes in it than Swiss cheese."

Legislation that would impose a temporary moratorium on court-ordered countywide property tax reassessments in Pennsylvania passed the House Wednesday and is headed to the state Senate for further consideration.

A similar bill passed both chambers last year but Gov. Tom Corbett vetoed it after a Senate amendment applied the moratorium to Washington County only and eliminated the timetable for the moratorium.

House Bill 2137 is part of a multi-bill package that state , D-Cecil, and , D-North Strabane, spearheaded to reform what both have called the state's "flawed method of reassessing property values" in order to protect homeowners from dramatic increases in property taxes.

The bill has the support of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. 

"We passed the moratorium bill for a second time because it is critical for protecting taxpayers," White said. "Everyone acknowledges the reassessment process is fundamentally flawed, so a temporary moratorium is essential to give us time to close loopholes and ensure reassessments are not being used as backdoor property tax increases by school districts and their lawyers. Now we need the Senate to act quickly and pass the bill without amendment so those counties currently facing court-ordered reassessments, like Washington County, can be spared from wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a reassessment process that has more holes in it than Swiss cheese."

The moratorium would stop all court-ordered countywide property tax reassessments from occurring—which would also include Allegheny County—until the General Assembly has enacted legislation to address problems that the Reassessment Task Force discovered, or until Dec. 31, 2013.

The task force, created under legislation that White and Neuman sponsored and which developed policies and procedures to ensure reassessment uniformity among counties throughout the commonwealth, is scheduled to release its findings within the next week.

The bill permits any county to conduct a reassessment if it chooses to do so, but it prevents a scenario where a county is forced to conduct a reassessment as the result of a lawsuit.

"Hopefully the second time will be the charm, because reassessments are far too expensive and devastating to homeowners to be conducted inaccurately," Neuman said. "The task force has been working hard to fix these problems, and we owe it to taxpayers to do it right the first time and protect them from property tax increases. The ball is in the Senate's court; hopefully they take it and run with it without further amendments to give us time to make the process better."

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