Clarion County Plans First Property Reassessment Since 1975
(Pictured above: Zach Stiglitz, Clarion County Chief Assessor.)
Clarion County Commissioners Ted Tharan, Wayne Brosius, and Ed Heasley on Tuesday morning approved a $1.7 million contract with Vision Government Solutions for the reassessment of Clarion County, pending review by the county solicitor.
Commissioners also approved, pending legal review, the Vision computer software package for $249,000.00 to be used throughout the reassessment process.
All real estate taxes set by municipalities, school districts, and the county are based on the official assessments. The process is expensive, and the new property values will be announced sometime in 2025, according to Zach Stiglitz, Clarion County Chief Assessor.
It is going to take some time after approval is received from the solicitor.
“I don’t think much will be happening until later in the summer,” Stiglitz explained. “They (Vision Government Solutions) have to hire local people and fully train them. They will divide the county into sections, and that will be a process as they move from section to section. They will probably focus on one municipality at a time.
“There are going to be public meetings before they go into each neighborhood or area, and there are also going to be tons of PR events where the public can come in and ask questions.”
The process will not be completed until new property values are set in 2025. Stiglitz said that during 2024 there will be no data collecting, and that is the start of generating the property values.
After training, the new employees will be assigned to certain sections of the county.
“I’m not entirely sure where they start to focus, but they are likely to focus on each municipality, one at a time. Once they pick out an area, they will send out mailers. Those mailers will have information on them for people to fill out, such as how many bathrooms, how many bedrooms, and things like that. Whether people send them in or not, that’s up to them.”
Assessors do not go inside homes, but they do take photos of the exterior and measure the structures for square footage. While property owners are not mandated to return the mailers, the assessors will still take photos and square-foot measurements.
“The assessment office is trying to be as uniform as possible,” Stiglitz continued. “It just kind of gets lost after 50 years of not having a reassessment, and things get lost like people adding additions to a house, people removing buildings, and adding additions.
“You’re literally talking about generations of Clarion County residents who have never had their property reassessed.”
The reassessment will benefit a certain amount of people, according to Stiglitz, but the main benefit is that taxes will be uniform. The same two houses next to each other will then have the same taxes, and that isn’t always the case.
Commissioner Tharan explained in a December 2021 meeting that with stagnant real estate taxes based on the 1975 real estate values, commissioners would explore a countywide property reassessment, the first in nearly 50 years.
All three commissioners agreed that previous commissioners were kicking the can of reassessment down the road since 1975, and it was time to do something.
“Our revenues are not going down, but they’re not going up,” said Tharan. “If you look at the last 10-year period, the revenues only increased $250,000.00 or an average $25,000.00 a year.”
The idea of reassessment over the years often is a political football and can generate criticism, but the commissioners are committed to getting something done.
“The thing is we’re always looking down the road, and there isn’t any more road left,” Tharan said.
“I mean, it should have been done 40 years ago. It’s the right thing to do.”
Asked about possible public criticism Tharan responded, “If you get crucified for doing what’s right, so be it.”
Stiglitz said that Clarion County uses one of the oldest assessments in Pennsylvania.
“I think there are only one or two counties with older assessments,” he added.
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