- Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 23:52
- Published on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 23:52
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Property owners throughout Westmoreland County are reacting as never before to a set of values returned last month by the county government’s Pearson Appraisal Service reassessment team. The results are in and reassessment notices have been distributed to property owners throughout the jurisdiction.
A Pearson representative shared the results of the last four years’ real estate activity when the supervisors met one month ago. Values had jumped 21 percent, but the increase in communities with new sewage collection infrastructure was up to 60 percent greater than before. The supervisors and their public were advised by the Pearson representative that without the county’s new sewer improvements, the rise in average values countywide could not have reached 10 percent.
The December 2009 property reassessment values provided the proof that the county government’s public sewer projects have been successful in providing a substantially enhanced or expanded tax base. The higher tax base makes it possible for the local government to borrow greater amounts of money to support such projects as new county high school and judicial center construction and sewage collection and treatment infrastructure in more Westmoreland County neighborhoods.
In December 2009 the total assessed value of taxable property in Westmoreland County was approximately $2.8 billion, up from the $2.1 billion value reported by the same reassessment team in January 2006. The 2006 property reassessment broke all local records when compared to the $1.1 billion total reported as a result of the county’s 2001 reassessment.
The 2006 reassessment numbers were described as a 100 percent increase, the sharpest spike ever reported in county history. In February 2005 Pearson anticipated a 40 percent increase, but the 2005 real estate marked surpassed everyone’s expectations and, in Pearson’s words, “sales prices went through the roof and overall values rose 84 percent.”
Waterfront property values doubled four years ago and large parcels in the county’s interior jumped as much as 119 percent. Questions emerged about Westmoreland’s ability to retain its historically rural character.
The new reassessment numbers have shocked county property owners who previously supposed the market had essentially collapsed. How, residents ask, can land values rise at a time when properties aren’t selling and sales prices are being lowered in order to make the existing real estate offerings more attractive to prospective buyers?
Property owners began meeting with the reassessment team to challenge the new values as soon as notices arrived and the meetings could be scheduled. People who are concerned about the distressed economy and their own job security or the condition of their investment portfolios now wonder how they will find the money to pay their county tax bills.