Heennnrrryyyy GGeeoooorrrgggeeee!!!!!

OK..  I can’t resist this one.  It’s just floating up there.

EPR has this story on County Councilman Matt Drozd upset over the valuations of 4 vacant properties he owns in the city. Their inconsistent valuation is evidence that the whole assessment is kaput. He really seems to say that his new property valuations are evidence that the reassessment of all 580 thousand properties in the county must be wrong.

So let’s see.  Indeed Mr. Drozd owns 4 vacant properties on Perrysville Ave.  Technically one is owned by him, and 3 others by DROZD DEVELOPMENT & CONSTRUCTION CORP. Here they are in the current assessment records.

The source of anger it seems is that all 4 properties were indeed assessed similarly at ($2000, $2100, $2,200 and $2,000) respectively.  Yet the new assessments:  $6200, $1000, $8000 and $8800.   Egads.  what is up with that?  We’ll come back to the $1,000 valued parcel in a minute, but the other prices all may make a lot more sense than you think.

First off, despite what is quoted in the article, they are not identical.. at least not in the parcel record which is consistent with the maps/shapes of these parcels..  The Sq. foot of each are: 2080, 2618, 2925 and 2800 .  So for the three of them, the assessment per square foot is much more consistent with the new valuations than with the old. An error?

Then…. Are these recent purchases?  No, it seems.  One bought in 1980.  Another couple  bought in 1994.  So they have remained vacant land in the city for literally decades. What were they bought for?  $450, $2,275, $2,275 and $4,323.  So he paid very different prices on them, maybe it makes sense they have slightly different values now?

Funny thing right when you think about it.  When he bought decades ago there was a land tax in the city of Pittsburgh so he likely had to pay the split tax which really hit vacant land harder than other properties.  He did well when the reassessment came in and got rid of the split tax in the city at the time.

So the property listed as $1000?  It is the only property listed as having no utilities and no off street parking.   I don’t see how 2 of them have off street parking as it is… All seem to have some hillside issues. Maybe if the good Councilman corrects the parking data on the property cards as they have shown for the last decade on those two properties he might get a big tax break administratively… no need to go to a formal appeal even.  Though what I really think is happening is that the low valued property is one that has signed away an easement for this billboard. If I am right it is another reason the parcels are not homogenous and clearly a disamenity for one of them… if I got the spot right which is unclear.

I’d ask for a commission on that advice for the savings he will get.. but it just can be much.  The county tax bill on each property now comes to about $9.38 per year.  With the 2% for paying early, and he does pay early each year it comes down to $9.19. Works out to 76 cents per month.  So 45 cents postage on the letter back to the county represents almost 5% of his entire tax bill.  I guess since he works for the county part-time, he might just drop it off and save the postage.

But this is the entire point of Henry George’s land tax.  Property in the city undeveloped is not supposed to happen.  So sitting on 4 city parcels for decades with taxes so low that there is no incentive to either develop or sell to someone who is willing to develop is exactly what you don’t want to happen for a city parcel.  Now with the new values jumping several hundred percent he might have to pay $25 in tax annually to the county.  Granted a bit more to the city and school district, but still.

and since everything gets tied together in Pittsburgh.  The nano-tempest over what percentage of Pittsburgh property owners who will see their taxes will go down with the reassessment??  Well, I excluded properties with previous values under $3K precisely to exclude the many parcels like these that just are not the point when you see the news interviewing long time residents worried they wont be able to pay their new tax bills.  These 4 parcels showed up as 4 datapoints in the other calculation.. not mine… so implicitly weighted the same as 4 life long residents elsewhere in city.  Does that make sense?

In the end though.. what looks to me like a prime example of the new assessments doing a lot better than previous values is turned on it’s head.  In this case the old values sure seem to have been done a bit superficially and clearly didn’t reflect what was different about the parcels.  Now that has been corrected, it is deemed to be evidence of gross error???

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