What is a Countywide Reassessment?
A reassessment is the process of performing all of the necessary Market Analysis and Valuation steps to determine accurate and equitable values for all properties within a county. The purpose of a reassessment is not to raise taxes. It is to create an equitable distribution of the tax burden.
Real estate taxes are calculated for each property, based on the Fair Market Value at a given point in time (base year). This base year value is used for assessments each year until a new base year is established by a countywide reassessment. The current base year for Clarion County assessments is 1975. This is when the last countywide reassessment was completed.
What is the Purpose of the Reassessment?
The purpose is to create an equitable distribution of the tax load. Reassessments are required under the Consolidated County Assessment Law 53 Pa C.S. § 8823 to be revenue neutral. This means that the total taxes levied by a taxing district cannot automatically increase the year after a reassessment, and the tax rates are required to be adjusted so that the total taxes levied do not exceed the total taxes levied in the preceding tax year.
Historically, based on data that’s been published on other countywide reassessments, one-third of the property owners will see a decrease in their taxes, one-third will stay about the same, and one-third will see an increase.
Why is Clarion County Conducting a Reassessment?
To Deliver Accurate, Fair, and Equitable Assessments According to Standards Set by the IAAO.
The IAAO (International Association of Assessing Officers) recommends that properties should be revalued at least every four to six years to account for changes in property values, and to maintain uniform and equitable assessments. Based on a study that was completed for the State Tax Equalization Board in 2014, titled “Review of Calculations of Common Level Ratios in Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania is one of eight states that doesn’t require a current market value standard for property assessments, or a specified reassessment cycle. Instead, the decision to reassess is left up to each county with some counties not reassessing property assessments since the 1960’s.
To Adhere to Best Practices Outlined by Pennsylvania’s Property Assessment Reform Task Force.
In response to recent assessment-related litigation, and reports of inconsistencies in Pennsylvania’s property assessment system, the Pennsylvania Local Government Commission formed the Property Assessment Reform Task Force in 2016. One of the Task Force accomplishments was a guide titled “Pennsylvania Property Assessment: A Self-Evaluation Guide for County Officials.” This document was subsequently adopted as best practices by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, and the Assessors Association of Pennsylvania in 2018. The self-evaluation guide provides steps a county can follow when periodically reviewing the status of their assessments, and the importance of regularly doing so. The guide also provides suggested guidelines for completing a ratio study, recommended ratio standards, and suggested standards on the frequency that counties should perform reassessments, all of which follow the standards established by the IAAO.
To Bring Clarion County’s Property Assessments in Line With Market Value.
At this time, Clarion County property owners are paying their county, municipal, and school taxes based on the assessed values established during the last countywide reassessment that was completed in 1975. The challenge with the real estate tax system lies in the fact that property values change over time; therefore, assessments cease to reflect real market values. Since the real estate tax is an “at value” tax, the fairness of the tax changes as the real estate market changes. These changes vary between property types, geographic areas, and other factors. A countywide reassessment is needed to equalize the values and create a fair distribution of the tax burden.
Who is Conducting the Reassessment?
Vision Government Solutions, Inc. has been contracted by the Clarion County Commissioners to conduct the reassessment. Vison is responsible for updating the Assessment Office’s computer software, collecting specified property data in the field, providing a public relations program, developing new Fair Market Values, calculating Clean and Green values, conducting the informal reviews, and providing certified assessors to assist the county with formal appeals.
How is a Reassessment Done?
Read the following graphic to understand what steps make up the reassessment process.
Click Here to download this document.
What Should I Expect When a Data Collector Visits?
All data collectors will display an official county ID, and data collectors will always knock on the door of the primary residence.
If an individual approaches you as a data collector, but cannot produce proper credentials, you should not permit him/her onto your property; the police and Reassessment Office should be notified immediately.
Data collectors are trained to gather data in a prescribed format and will visit every property in the county.
During this visit, property descriptions will be verified, photographs will be taken of the property’s structures, and information will be recorded on a property record card. This information will be used during the valuation phase. Data collectors do not set property values, nor will they go inside homes.
Some of the property characteristics for residential and agricultural properties that the data collector will note are:
• Building size, type, age, renovations
• Number of stories, property type
• Siding, heating, air conditioning
• Outbuilding descriptions
• Extraneous economic influences such as landfills, junkyards, and sewage treatment plants
For commercial and industrial buildings, data collectors will also ask what rents are being paid, if applicable.
This information is needed to develop overall typical rent patterns for income-producing properties and will be used when valuing commercial and industrial properties by the Income Approach. All rental information is kept confidential and is not made part of the public record.
When Vision data collectors begin visiting various areas and properties throughout the county, area newspapers, local officials, and law enforcement officials will be notified.
How Can I Review the Data Collected and Provide Additional Information?
As data is being collected, managers from both Vision Government Solutions and County Assessment staff often revisit properties to double check the data collection process. Property owners who are not at home during the exterior inspection will have an opportunity to review and correct the information collected once they receive a data verification mailer. Data Mailers will be sent in order to gain further insight on residential properties. Income & Expense forms will be sent on commercial/industrial properties to gain further insight on lease information.
Who Values My Property?
State law and the courts require that state-licensed Certified Pennsylvania Evaluators (CPE) consider the three approaches to value, whenever possible; namely, the Market Approach, the Cost Approach, and the Income Approach. After property descriptions are collected and reviewed, a CPE will utilize the data to classify structures and assign each property to a neighborhood that contains similar structures and market conditions. Valid sales for all property types are studied and appropriate formulas are developed. From this, preliminary values are produced. CPE’s will then review these values and make any needed adjustments to land and building values so that all values are uniform. ALL VALUATIONS ARE MADE BY CERTIFIED PENNSYLVANIA EVALUATORS.
When Will I Know the Results of My New Assessment?
Property owners will receive a preliminary value notice no later than April 2024. The notice will include the proposed new Fair Market Value, and information about how to take advantage of the informal review process. Property owners will receive a Change of Assessment notice in the mail on or before July 1, 2024. The notice will include the old assessed value, the new Fair Market Value, the Clean and Green value (if applicable), and information about appeal rights. Owners will be notified about their rights and responsibilities regarding the appeal process.
How Will the Reassessment Impact My Taxes?
How will the Countywide Reassessment Impact My Taxes?
When you receive the notice of your new assessed value, a portion of the notice will provide an estimate of the tax impact on your property. This estimate is based on the prior year’s total county, municipality, and school taxes.
Pennsylvania law requires taxing bodies to adjust their millage in the year after a reassessment. The estimated tax impact provided in your notice will be approximate and subject to the final adjustment to the millage rates. Although most property owners want to pay their fair share, they are naturally concerned about whether their taxes will increase or decrease as a result of the countywide reassessment.
COMMON MYTHS AND MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT REASSESSMENTS:
MYTH: A Countywide Reassessment Means that My Taxes are Going to Increase.
NOT NECESSARILY. Based on a typical countywide reassessment, about one-third of the tax base will see a decrease in their tax bills, one-third will stay the same, and one-third will pay more. A change to an individual’s property taxes depends on whether the increase in the 1975 value to a January 1, 2024 market value is more or less than the average increase experienced in the taxing district.
Many people mistakenly think that if their Fair Market Value increases, then their tax bill will increase by the same proportion. This will not happen because all taxing districts are required, by state law, to lower their tax millage by the same ratio that the tax base increased. Example: If the county’s tax base were to quadruple, then the county’s millage rate would be lowered to one-fourth.
MYTH: The Countywide Reassessment Will Provide New Revenue for Taxing Bodies.
NOT TRUE. Pennsylvania state law requires that after the tax base has been equalized and brought to current market value, the millage must be reduced in order to collect the same revenue as collected in the previous year. After the equalized millage is set, and if the taxing body needs to collect additional revenue, they may do so; however, they are limited (by law) to the amount of additional total revenue that may be collected from taxpayers in the year following the countywide reassessment. The statutory limit for counties, townships, and boroughs is 10%. The statutory limit for school districts is set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and is limited to the index. That index is generally about 2%.
Clarion County Commissioners Approve Issuance of RFP for Countywide REAssessment
Jan 11th 2022 – Clarion County Commissioners issue a Request for Proposal to conduct a county-wide Reassessment.
Vision Government Solutions Selected to Conduct Countywide ReASSESSMENT
Apr 12th 2022 – Clarion County Board of Commissioners Vote on Moving Forward with Reassessment to be Implemented for the 2025 Tax Year. Read the Press Release.
Data Collection & Street Level Imagery
June 2022 – Feb 2024 – Vision Government Solutions staff will conduct data collection through exterior inspections and the use of street level imagery via Desktop Review.
Feb 2023 – Sept 2023 – Property owners will receive a data mailer to verify the information collected during the Data Collection phase of the reassessment.
Feb 2023 – Feb 2024
Aug 2023 – Nov 2023
Oct 2023 – Mar 2024
Preliminary Value Notice & Informal Reviews
Apr 2024 – May 2024
Official Change of Assessment Notices
Aug 2024 – Oct 2024
Project Completion / Certification of Values
Nov 15th 2024
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Vision?
A: Vision Government Solutions is a company which specializes in services and software designed to assist jurisdictions with assessing, billing and support of zoning and building department functions. We are typically hired by counties, municipalities, and jurisdictions to help them fulfill the State requirement to reassess all real property so that the assessments reflect current market value as of a certain date. Our work is largely regulated by State law which dictates when and how we reassess properties. We have been providing appraisal services and Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal Software (CAMA) to Assessing departments located throughout the United States since 1975. During this time, we have successfully completed over one thousand revaluation projects throughout the Northeastern United States. We bring a significant amount of professional expertise to a project. Our large appraisal staff is comprised of State certified professionals that have significant industry experience. Our Senior Appraisal personnel average over 20 years of Appraisal experience.
While headquartered in Massachusetts, our Pennsylvania appraisal division has focused specifically on the unique needs and assessment regulations of PA since 1976. Because our employees are geographically dispersed, we can assign them to projects in their home State thus allowing them to apply their local knowledge to their professional experience.
As a company, we fully understand that a revaluation can have a very real economic impact within a County once the results are released. Revaluations have a long history of creating intense conjecture and debate with respect to fairness and accuracy. It is with this understanding that we take great pains to ensure that every one of our appraisals accurately reflects current market value as defined by each State. We also work closely with our clients after values are released to make sure the process is understood and accepted. Counties and ultimately taxpayers are heavily dependent on the property tax to pay for important services such as police, fire and public schools. It is through the delivery of professional, properly executed cyclical property revaluations that we can assist our clients with the important task of ensuring that these vital property tax levies are fairly and equitably distributed.
Is my assessment correct?
A: The following 2 questions can help you decide if your assessment is correct.
Please note: If you are concerned that your taxes are going to double because your property value has doubled, that is not the case.
Since everyone else’s property value is also rising, the tax rate must drop proportionally to the amount of total increase to the County’s total value.
1) Can I sell my property for that amount?
The first thing that you should do is ask yourself if you could sell the property for approximately that amount.
2) Does the Assessment Office have the correct information on my property?
An online database will be available to you later in the project, where you will be able to review the information that the Assessment Office has collected on your property to make sure the data is accurate. You will also receive a data mailer that you can review and verify, and you will also be able to meet with a representative to review the property record when informal reviews commence.
While reviewing your property, you should make sure that all measurements on the sketch are accurate. Please note that all measurements are taken from the exterior. You should also check the land size and interior data to ensure accuracy.
What approach will be used to determine value?
A: The Clarion reassessment team will develop property values in accordance with Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Assessment Law. Three approaches to value shall be considered, the Cost Approach, Comparable Sales Approach, and Income Approach. The price at which any property may actually have been sold shall be considered but shall not be controlling.
Land valuation will be accomplished through an analysis of vacant sales, as well as a land residual analysis, which is accomplished by deducting improvement values and extracting land values from improved sales. This analysis results in a base land curve. In each community, neighborhoods will be established that represent similar value patterns and neighborhood factors will be established. Each neighborhood, street by street, will also be rated for desirability which provides a second factor that may be applied to the base square foot or acreage schedule to account for differences in location. In addition, factors will be applied to account for negative or positive influences on value such as topography, view, irregular lot shape, waterfront and other factors.
Overall property values, including improvement value, will be verified by the sales ratio analysis, segregated by the pertinent value related factors of each property. This analysis will be stratified within various categories including style of property, segmented by size and age, by lot size and location factors. This analysis enables the Project Management team to fine-tune the final tables for each property to create a mirror image of market sales activity within the County.
For commercial/industrial properties, all three approaches to value will be employed. For commercial/industrial properties that are basically non-income-producing, the secondary approach will be the market approach, utilizing the square foot values derived from the sales analysis for the particular use type of the property. Square foot values will be segregated by type, including industrial, warehouse, retail, etc. and will provide reasonable ranges for per square foot sale prices of building areas. Land value, once determined, will be added to building value for an estimate of total value. For all income producing commercial property, the income approach, utilizing a direct capitalization approach, will be employed.
The replacement cost approach to value will be employed for both residential and commercial and industrial properties as follows:
Information derived from our cost analysis will provide the basis for determining the cost pricing schedules used in the valuation of residential and commercial/industrial properties.
Subsequent to the determination of replacement cost pricing schedules and the establishment of land values, the team will analyze the sales of improved properties in order to derive an estimate of physical and functional depreciation and economic obsolescence.
Physical and functional depreciation and economic obsolescence will be computed to be the difference between the selling price of the total property and the sum of the estimated replacement cost new of the improvement plus the estimated land value.
Provided that a sufficient number of sales are available, guidelines in the form of tables based upon the condition, desirability and usefulness of a building relative to its actual age will be developed. After approval by the Assessor, these tables will be used to estimate the depreciation of comparable subject properties.
All of these tables are then applied to each parcel in the County. Each property is then reviewed by an appraiser. During this review, the appraiser rechecks the physical data and then ensures that the value is consistent with the sales activity within the immediate area. This value then becomes the final proposed value and once accepted by the County becomes the final assessed value.
Will I Have an Opportunity to Question My Assessment After Receiving My Notice?
A: Yes. When preliminary value notices are mailed, property owners will be provided a telephone number that will put the owner in touch with a person who can answer questions about the notices. Property owners will also have the opportunity to schedule an informal review. Informal reviews will be conducted by qualified staff who can review property descriptions, make data corrections, and discuss valuation. All informal reviews must be completed before June 1, 2024. Descriptive changes to a property may alter the proposed market value.
All property owners will receive a Change of Assessment Notice after informal reviews have been completed. The owners may file an appeal with the Board of Assessment Appeals. If they are not satisfied with the results of that hearing, an appeal may be made to the Court of Common Pleas. There will be many opportunities for property owners to provide input.
Is the valuation model that Vision uses a proprietary model?
A: Absolutely not. Below we have listed sample models used for valuing residential buildings and residential building lots. Please be aware that our models are built to represent market conditions within a County and therefore they can vary between different Counties. Nevertheless, a typical building and land model are depicted below. All beginning costs are arrived at by performing an in depth study of the local market which is a process that includes one or more of the following steps- a complete review of recent County sales transactions, consultations with local builders, consultations with local realtors, an examination of transactions where new properties were built and sold as well as the use of nationally recognized building cost manuals.
Residential Building Valuation Model
Beginning Square foot price
+/- Physical characteristics (bedrooms, bathrooms, quality of construction, flooring, fireplace etc…)
= Adjusted cost per square foot
Adjusted cost per square foot x building square footage
– Building depreciation
= Building value
Land Valuation Model
x Unit price
x Land condition adjustment
x Location adjustment
= Land value
What is a reassessment?
A: A reassessment is the process of performing all of the necessary Market Analysis and Valuation steps to determine accurate and equitable values for all properties within a county. The purpose of a reassessment is not to raise taxes. It is to create an equitable distribution of the tax burden.
What is a Clean and Green?
A: Clean and Green – Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act 319 of 1974, (as amended) is a state law authorized by the Pennsylvania Constitution that allows qualifying land that is devoted to agricultural and forest land use to receive a preferential assessment. Property owners with land of 10 acres or more in size may qualify for the Clean and Green program. Land tracts of less than 10 acres in size and actively producing an agricultural commodity may also be eligible. The Clean and Green program provides a tax reduction by permitting a “use value” to be assessed to qualifying land instead of “market value.” Property owners may learn more about this program by visiting the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s website.
What happens during a reassessment?
A: A physical inspection of the exterior of each property is conducted. While data collection is being conducted, appraisers are studying the recent market sales in order to gain a full understanding of the real estate market in your County. This study of recent property sales allows the appraisers to establish valuation models used to estimate the value of properties that have not sold using comparisons with recent sales. The valuation models are applied to all non-sale properties in order to approximate the market value of each property.
How will I know if my assessment is equitable?
A: Refer to our Is My Assessment Correct? section.
Why did my land value change differently than my building value?
A: Since the last reassessment, real estate values have changed significantly. Construction costs typically increase at a slower rate than property values have appreciated. When building costs have not increased as much as total values, the bulk of the total increase is attributable to land. This makes perfect economic sense, as it is land that is limited supply.
Will a reassessment increase taxes?
A: A revaluation may result in an increase or decrease of individual taxes depending on how a property value increased or decreased relative to the average change in the County’s assessments. It does not mean that all property taxes will increase or decrease. Remember assessments are only the base that is used to determine the tax burden. The tax burden is the amount that the municipality must raise to operate the local government and support the many services each of us has come to expect, such as schools, police, etc. As an example, if the same amount of money is to be raised after the revaluation as the previous year and each assessment doubles, the tax rate would merely be cut in half.
What is the “market” and who determines my property value?
A: The value of your property is based on an analysis of the entire market for a specified period of time before the completion of the revaluation project. The market can generally be defined as, you, the person who sold the property to you, and the person willing to buy it from you. It is the appraiser’s job to research and analyze the values in any particular area or neighborhood. In effect, they do what you would do to determine the selling price when putting your property up for sale. However, the appraiser has specific guidelines to follow during their research. Some factors that are examined for each property are: location, size, quality of construction, age of improvements, topography, utilities, zoning restrictions, if any, etc.
Will all property values change?
A: Most likely, yes. However, not all property values will change at the same rate. Market value may have increased more for some neighborhoods and property types than for others. Some neighborhoods and property types may have decreased in value and others may have remained the same. One purpose of a revaluation is to make sure that the assessed values reflect the changes that have occurred in the real estate market.
What is market value?
A: Market value has been defined by the courts as, “The price in a competitive market a purchaser, willing but not obligated to buy, would pay an owner, willing but not obligated to sell, taking into consideration all the legal uses to which the property can be adapted and might be reasonably applied.” (See Buhl Found. v. Board of Prop. Assessment, 180 A.2d 900 (Pa. 1962).
The Market value represents the typical selling price for the property, unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with a sale.
Do all assessments change at the same rate?
A: There are differences between individual properties and between neighborhoods. In one area, the sales may indicate a substantial increase in value in a given year. In another neighborhood, there may be a lesser change in property values.
Different types of properties within the same neighborhood may also show different value changes. For example, one – story houses may be more in demand than two – story houses or vice versa. Older homes in the same area may be rising in value more slowly than newer homes.
Among the numerous factors to be considered that will cause values to differ are location, condition, size, quality, number of baths, basement finish, garages, and many others.
Will the person who inspects my property be able to tell me my new assessment?
A: No. If an inspection is necessary on your property, we have to analyze all of the information we gathered before placing a value on your property. We will then further review this information to ensure that your assessment corresponds fairly to the assessments of other properties.
I've heard you develop values by computer. Is this correct?
A: Just as in many other fields, computers are useful in the assessment process. Assessors are trained to look for relationships between property characteristics and market value. By coding these characteristics and studying sale prices, assessors can estimate value by developing formulas and models. Computers are much faster and are capable of advanced analysis in this area. Despite these capabilities, common sense and assessor judgment are always required to verify assessments. Assessors most familiar with the neighborhoods and properties review all assessments.
Have another question? Get in touch!
Clarion County Reassessment Office
(814) 297-7980 or (814) 297-7981
Mon. through Fri. 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Human Services Building
214 S 7th Ave. Room 106
Clarion, PA 16214