One of the most basic principles of uniform taxation required by the Pennsylvania Constitution is that a taxpayer pays no more or less than his or her proportionate share of the cost of government. The ability to appeal property tax assessments helps to ensure that taxpayers have some way to keep the playing field level. Current law recognizes these interests and provides appeal rights to individual taxpayers and local governments, including school districts.
However, while it is widely acknowledged that Pennsylvania’s property assessment system needs comprehensive reform, legislative proposals that would take away a school district’s right to appeal the assessment of a property are not the solution. By eliminating the right to initiate appeals, particularly with apartment complexes and large commercial properties that are significantly under assessed, school districts will experience losses in revenue that could be significant. This restriction in the ability to generate future local revenues will harm schools and unfairly shift the property tax burden to fairly assessed properties.
School districts have a substantial interest in the correctness of property tax valuations, especially in re-emerging communities where large commercial and industrial projects could provide vital tax revenue. Reforms should be made to fix the current system that makes these appeals necessary in the first place. Without a reliable system for accurate reassessment of real estate throughout the state, the use of assessment appeals helps both taxpayers and taxing bodies, including school districts, ensure uniform taxation. Restrictions on the ability for assessment appeals would leave school districts without a large portion of available revenues for many, many years. Restrictions would also hurt property owners who are fairly assessed and are paying their proportionate share of taxes, burdening them with carrying the weight of owners of under-assessed properties.