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Reassessment ‘likely’ in Schuylkill

Schuylkill County “more than likely” will see a reassessment within seven years, Chief Assessor Kent Hatter said Friday.

The task will be a costly one, although how much, he could not say.

The county has been sued by the Community Justice Project, a nonprofit group in Harrisburg. The civil case is still pending in county court in front of Judge James P. Goodman.

First Assistant Solicitor Glenn Roth said both sides are in discovery phase now. He would not comment on the litigation. Previously he didn’t believe a countywide reassessment is necessary. The last reassessment was done in 1996.

In November, the county hired Joan R. Price and the firm Eastburn and Gray, P.C., Doylestown for “the purpose of evaluating the county’s real estate tax assessment procedure and processes as it relates to pending countywide reassessment litigation and to such other matters deemed necessary by county administration and the office of the county solicitor.”

Records show the case was filed July 30, 2018, and served to County Administrator Gary Bender. Plaintiffs are listed as Robert Heim and Lisa Aviles. Roth said Heim died and Aviles is no longer a county resident.

Marielle Macher, who is listed as a lawyer and executive director of the Community Justice Project, said Friday three additional plaintiffs have been added. She didn’t have their names immediately available.

Macher said no additional court dates are scheduled.

She said the owners of lower property values are “bearing a disproportionate share of the tax burden,” as exemplified by an expert report prepared by an outside consultant. Data from a June report from the State Equalization Board from June 2015 forward was used in compiling the report, she said. She didn’t know why he picked the time frame.

Macher said the goal is simple.

“We are seeking for the county to do a reassessment,” she said.

Hatter said approximately 96,000 properties exist in county. A reassessment might take two or three years, he said.

“The reassessment isn’t going to happen tomorrow, but you have to have proper planning,” he said.

The 2004 software the office uses should be updated.

“The opportune time to do it is when there is a reassessment or right before,” Hatter said.

He estimated the price tag at possibly “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” It would entail coordination with other offices such as mapping and information services.