Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County in the case of Joan E. Croasdale v. Dauphin County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 291 S 1984.
Kevin J. McKeon, Malatesta, Hawke & McKeon, for appellant.
Carl G. Wass, Caldwell, Clouser & Kearns, for appellee.
Carroll F. Purdy, Thomas & Thomas, for amicus curiae, School District of the City of Harrisburg.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, Williams, Jr., MacPhail, Doyle, Barry and Colins. Opinion by Judge Colins. Judge Williams, Jr. did not participate in the decision in this case. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Rogers. Judge MacPhail joins in this dissent.
[ 89 Pa. Commw. Page 410]
Joan E. Croasdale (appellant) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, which upheld the validity of a new assessment program undertaken by the Dauphin County Board of Assessment Appeals (Board). Appellant brings this suit in equity to prohibit the collection of the increased levy, based upon various constitutional and procedural issues.
An assessment has not been conducted in Dauphin County since 1973 and the facts of this case show that
[ 89 Pa. Commw. Page 411]
approximately 90% of the properties in the county are underassessed. Claiming that a county-wide assessment is not economically feasible, the Board decided to correct this problem by a neighborhood-by-neighborhood reassessment which the Board claims will cover 90% of the County and take approximately three years to complete. The first area targeted by the Board for reassessment was appellant's Harrisburg neighborhood of Shipoke.
The Dauphin County reassessment plan, like other taxing schemes, is based on a mathematical procedure which begins with an assessment of the market values of the properties to be taxed. Property taxes are paid upon a certain percentage of these market values.
In general, a determination of market value includes a review of recent transfers of real estate within the neighboring area, a visual inspection of the exterior appearances of the property in question, and a correlation of any other unique factors which may affect the valuation of such real estate. The assessor, a trained expert, correlates these factors, and through the use of his expertise and training, arrives at an estimate of what the market value of the property would be. In the instant matter, there is no present contest as to the assessor's determination of market value.
Once the market value of a property is determined, this figure is then multiplied by what is known as the "common level ratio" in order to determine the assessed value for real estate taxation purposes. This "common level ratio" is a statistical tool, expressed as a percentage ratio of assessed value to current market value, used generally in each county for equalization of property tax burdens. This common level ratio is to be determined by the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) pursuant to the Tax Equalization
[ 89 Pa. Commw. Page 412]
Act.*fn1 The STEB has the duty to annually establish a common level ratio of assessed value to market value in each county for the prior calendar year.*fn2
Once the common level ratio is multiplied by the current market value of the property, the product is divided by the "predetermined ratio" to establish the assessed value at which the property should be taxed. The predetermined ratio is the ratio that the Board determines ...