Cuts in tax property value have cost the school district an estimated $6.7 million in revenue over the last three years
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH — Homeowners hoping to get an easy path to getting their property tax values reassessed down be warned: the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District may be getting prepared to challenge you.
Although the district has primarily sought to challenge tax reassessments on commercial properties, the revenue costs of reassessments — estimated to be as high as $6.7 million over the last three years — is driving district officials to go on the offensive. The Board of Education will formally consider such a move at next Monday’s formal board meeting.
“The reassessments were not frequent or significant until about three years ago,” said Robert Cochran, the district’s Director of Business and Operations said during Monday night’s Board of Education Finance Sub-committee meeting. But, with the fall in real estate values, property owners began appealing their assessments as being above market value.
Those appeals, which are heard by a panel appointed by the Chester County Commissioners in Chester County or by Delaware County Council in Delaware County, have approved new property values that have cut more than $500,000 each year from Chester County and more than $130,000 per year from Delaware County. Typically, the residential cases are only opposed by the county.
Although the Chester County number is estimated to drop to $422,000 in the 2012-13 tax year, it still means a roughly 1% tax increase would be needed to just to maintain the budget status quo.
Cochran noted that neighboring Kennett Consolidated School District is taking a more aggressive stance, having someone with a better sense for current local property values comb through the appeals and look for cases that appear to be out of whack with current values. Cochran suggested the district look into taking a similar approach — not opposing what appear to be appeals of excessive valuations, but looking for those property owners attempting to use the system to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Cochran noted that while such an aggressive stance would initially be more expensive — citing as an example, a theoretical cost of $1,000 additional to oppose a tax appeal, could result in keeping $200 in tax revenue per year, starting with the sixth year, the district would be ahead, financially.
Although the initial sense was to look into the matter further, the calendar seemed to sway board members into putting the issue on next week’s agenda, as the tax appeal season runs from the end of this month through early November.
“Time is of the essence,” Finance chair Keith Knauss said. “If we’re going to do anything about this this year, we’ll need to take action.”