Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County issued a decision on September 5, 2006 in the case of Daugherty v. County of Allegheny, et al. in which he held that a property owner in a real estate tax appeal may seek to have a property assessed at the lower of its current fair market value or its 2002 base year value.

Earlier this year, Allegheny County adopted an assessment regime under which properties are to be assessed at their 2002 "base year" value.  This base year regime was to apply to assessments for 2006 and future years.  Nevertheless, property owners and some taxing bodies have taken the position that, notwithstanding the adoption of a 2002 base year, they are entitled to have a property's 2006 assessment determined at its 2006 fair market value - even if that fair market value differs from the property's 2002 base year value.

In his decision, Judge Wettick agreed that a property owner may seek to have a property assessed at the lower of its 2002 base year or its 2006 fair market value, for example, by submitting evidence of a post-2002 sale at a price below the 2002 base year value.  He declined to rule on whether a taxing body may seek to have a property assessed at its 2006 fair market value if that value exceeds its 2002 base year value.

Property owners whose property has decreased in value since 2002 should consider filing assessment appeals for the 2007 year.

Property owners should also expect that taxing bodies will use Judge Wettick's decision to support their position that they may file appeals seeking to have a property assessed at its 2006 fair market value, even if that value exceeds the 2002 base year assessed value.  Despite the County's adoption of a 2002 base year, taxing bodies have continued to file appeals seeking to increase a property's 2006 assessment above its 2002 base year value where the property's value has increased since 2002. We anticipate that in light of Judge Wettick's decision, taxing bodies will be emboldened to file even more appeals.