Adams settles nearly a quarter of app...

Adams settles nearly a quarter of appeals

There are 97 comments on the Evening Sun story from Jan 3, 2011, titled Adams settles nearly a quarter of appeals. In it, Evening Sun reports that:

Nearly a quarter of the appeals of reassessed property values in Adams County that have gone to the court of common pleas have been settled so far without a trial.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Evening Sun.

“Tax Fairness is Needed”

Since: Aug 10

Middletown, PA

#61 Jan 6, 2011
Big Dog wrote:
I realize that an appraisal of any item, jewlery, coin collection or real estate is based on an educated guess. The more educated the appraiser is the better his guess should be. I also realize that no two appraisers, no matter how educated, will arrive at exactly the same value for the same item. In appraising real estate the task is even more difficult considering the vast difference between properties and the variety of kinds of appraisals (insurance, mortgage, tax ect.) But perception is reality and when people perceive that something is wrong they have a right to question it. While the Commissioners may have authorized this reappraisal it is the taxpayers that are paying for it and as the clients they have the right to make certain, to their satisfaction, that they got what they paid for. They also have the right to question their employee (21st Century) about the product as it affects them and to have 21st explain how they arrived at the conclusion they did. Further they have the right to have 21st explain discrepancies in their results without being denegrated by others. I realize that no professional enjoys having their work product questioned but that is part of what the client pays for and the employee should be anxious to please the client when possible.
Big Dog, Your point is well stated. Yes, any appraisal is an opinion of value and there will always be variances in methodology and final opinion from different appraisers. Furthermore, mass appraisal is a different process than most people are familiar with. When someone asks me to provide a document that would teach someone how to do a mass appraisal, I'm not sure how best to respond - That's like asking any professional to provide in a couple pages an explaination of what has taken years of experience to learn. Dr. Smith, please explain to me exactly how you did my surgery so that I could do the next one myself?

Perception is a big part of the problem here. County staff, reval staff, and me personally have spent countless hours researching any "issue" or parcel presented. I regardly keep an eye on Bruce's website so I can research his questions. But I have found it largerly ineffective to provide complex answers via the forums, or even via email responses. On several occasions (prior to the lawsuit shutting things down), I have made trips to Gettysburg to meet with interested taxpayers or groups to do exactly what you suggest - answer the questions and get to the bottom of any real problems.

Unfortunately at this point, I fear we have lost the opportunity. Most of those remaining with questions aren't really interested in the answers - as evidenced by their responses and actions. I've also found a that there are a lot of knowledgable people on this forum. If any of them want to get together and help me look for fairs to improve Tax Fairness in PA and improve the Mass Appraisal process - I'm not hard to find. Send me an email.

“Tax Fairness is Needed”

Since: Aug 10

Middletown, PA

#62 Jan 6, 2011
Big Dog wrote:
<quoted text>
Mr. Barr,
It was the County and not I that broke the land values down into square feet, had it not been for this notation in the "fair market land value" section of my property record card I probably would not have even considered it. Whether is was sq ft or something else, the County had to get the land value from your company. To say that "the formula for land values is driven by total lot size and not the price per square foot" would be misleading since the County seems to value smaller parcels by the sq ft. While it may make sense to you that $54,672 will get you lot 1/3 the size of a $60,000 lot the difference of $5,328 for the additional 19,800 sq ft does not make sense to the rest of us. As for your "economies of scale approach" where is the baseline? Is the large lot the baseline for the small lot or the small lot for the large? Just what is the formula for base rates that you mentioned above? Thats all we want to know.
Big Dog,
As I just detailed in my last post, it isn't really possible to explain the details on the forum - the best way is in front of a computer screen face-to-face. Regardless, in an attempt to provide a short answer to your technical question about land value...
Land formulas are independent per neighborhood - so first location must be identified. Up to one acre is identified as the "site", "baseacre", "potential baseacre" (choose your term). The average lot size is determined for reference. Sales Validation is conducted from County (Recorder of deeds and Assessment) records to eliminate "invalid sales". Outlier sales may also be excluded(extreme ratios) so they don't skew the result. The appraiser starts with valuing only parcels up to one acre. Everything above that comes later via the "added" or "contributory value."
Sales of parcels 1 acre and smaller are studied. The typical "floor" total price is identified. The typical "ceiling" (most people are paying) is identified. The average price people are paying is identified. If you were to plot total sales price VS lot size, you would see that the relationship between these three "points" is rarely a straight line. It also does not interest 0 sqft at $0. The graph typically looks like a two-sided hockey-stick with a kink in the middle.
We need a formula that works for all three points and everything in between. So we start with a "base value" and then add a rate per sqft is added to that base, based on the size of the parcel, up to the ceiling. Essentially, the added value of the added size must be stacked on top of that base value for the smallest usuable lot. But when you reach the ceiling, people don't pay more - so you stop adding value.
I realize this may not seem to make sense because we are so accustomed to linear measures of things. But think about a typical housing development. The 10000 sqft lots might be priced at $50000, the 20000 sqft lots at $60000, the 30000+ sqft lots all at $70,000.
That formula might look like this:
$30000 base +$1.5/sqft with a floor of $50K and a ceiling of $70K.
Average lot:$30000 +($1.50 x 20000 sqft)=$60,000
Small lot:$30000 +($1.50 x 10000 sqft)=$45,000 --> $50,000 (floor)
Large lot:$30000 +($1.50 x 30000 sqft)=$75,000 --> $70,000 (ceiling).
Bigger lots are worth more than smaller lots as you add contributory value for size. Now the appraiser might explain that the $30,000 base includes road access, water, sewer, power, etc - but the reality is that it takes a constrained-regression formula like this to model the market.
Note: All the above is then further adjusted by factors like the type of road, water, sewer, tree cover, etc. There is almost always an explaination for any difference - its math - but beyond what we would ever try to teach informal review staff to try and explain.

“Tax Fairness is Needed”

Since: Aug 10

Middletown, PA

#63 Jan 6, 2011
Moose wrote:
<quoted text>
Tim, you have yet to explain how side-by-side lots, exactly the same size (.52 acres) can be assessed at $35,000 and $25,000 respectively. There are no obvious differences, both interior lots and you could not tell where one started and one stopped. You have yet to explain how interior lots are valued higher than corner lots, or how private septic lots are valued more than public-sewered lots. You can talk yourself into a coma but you will probably never convince me that your data is accurate. When you take your data and compile it and sort it according to certain characteristics, a story begins to develop. You don't want that story told, but I don't mind being the Gate-Keeper for Adams County, and I will tell that story across the internet. A mustard seed has been planted and will continue to grow.
As for the Macbeth reference....Tim, you spend too much time in the Barr Fishing Creek Playhouse.
The $12K difference was due to one parcel being coded as Open and the other as Heavily Wooded. In that neighborhood, that can cause a difference up to $12000. In this case, the one coded "Wooded" was corrected through the process and now both parcels have the same value - but that explains the "initial" difference.

All other things being equal, Public sewer lots ARE typically valued MORE than private Septic - but when you compare parcels in different neighborhoods or where there are other differences in the data - the big picture might be different.

I don't mind the story beign told - but half the story? Or the wrong story?

“Tax Fairness is Needed”

Since: Aug 10

Middletown, PA

#64 Jan 6, 2011
Moose wrote:
I am not the only one who has questions about the competency of 21st Century Appraisals. Matter-of-Fact, Bruce Sauter, an expert in the field, also has questions of their methods and competency. Take a look at the Tioga report.
http://spreadthemustard.com/Tax%20Assessment/...
Welcome Back, Tim. We missed ya (not!)
That report is not based on a 21st Century work product.

Tioga did their own reassessment, their own fieldwork, their own appraisal judgements, and finally set their own final values - and then didn't implement the reval. Frankly the timing was unexpected poor (July 2008 right after the market crash). Our assitance to them was limited, but they needed political cover so they commissioned a "custom" study that does not accurately represent the facts. You must ask yourself what was the "purpose" of the study, as commissioned.

In Luzerne (where we were responsible for everything except the appeals process), the IAAO was hired directly to conduct an independent study. The IAAO then hired Mr Sauter to do the study - and he provided a glowing report for 21st Century and identified that it was some of the best reval work he had ever seen.

In Cumberland, a split-opinion board of commissioners hired a consultant for an independent review of their reval (like Tioga, the county did most of the work and we provided limited assistance). That report came out good too.

The State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) publishes quality of Assessment statistics annually. 21st Century has for over a decade, and continues to be the company with the top-ranked counties.

Reassessments aren't perfect, the process isn't perfect, the law isn't perfect, humans aren't perfect - but the end result can stll be measured using overall statistics and the fairness and uniformity is improved by the process.

Since that study was published, a settlement has been reached with the county so we can all move on.

“Tax Fairness is Needed”

Since: Aug 10

Middletown, PA

#65 Jan 6, 2011
Peoples Voice Adams wrote:
Mr. Barr we are confused about your quote above...
"The County and 21st Century have been completely open about the process and the valuation methodology for those that have directly asked."
Mr. Barr, we Peoples Voice Adams and multiple people within our group, as well as local attorneys have asked for the Data,the C.O.D. calculations prior to July 1st, 2010,the calculations made by the County of the C.O.D. and who made them, the 'secret formula'and more. This has been done by many people in written legal form, by phone, in person, and in public meetings taped and put on the very supportive local tv station ACTV!'Compleately open' seems quite a stretch. Check out the www.peoplesvoiceadams.com to see the who, what and why of what the people are asking for at the Adams County commissioners meetings. I am Directly asking again for all of the above. Alexandra Escalera
Alexandra,
I don't remember if you were ever at any of the public meetings where we explained the process and what goes into valuation. However, I hope you do recall the day that you and Phil Cole were at the EMS center observing formal appeals. I was there and offered to show you how the formulas work. The three of us spent about 2 hours in the conference room in front of the computer and projector. There was no "secret formula." We covered data, what affects value, land valuation, house valuation, etc. You spent the entire time taking notes and Phil kept trying to ask leading questions or twist the info to his liking. In the end, I think his comment was "well, you'll never convince us of anything." You then left and I felt perhaps I had wasted my time on the effort. However the effort was made. I had very similar sessions with many others that seemed far more productive.

At the meeting you organized at the Middle School, I asked the moderator if this was an information session of a complaint session? I was told it was the latter. Regardless, I did my best to answer all the questions raised that day.

I've watched the ACTV video, and most questions asked in the "public comment" portion of the meeting are rhetorical. Even when answers are provided, they are not accepted. I think you started out concerned about the reclassifcation of your parcel from residence to commercial, then that expanded into a true concern to help taxpayers through this process. Unfortunately most of the people around you have preconceived opinions and agendas. This was clear at the Middle School, clear in the testimony at the injunction hearing, and clear in the posts here.

Now there is a lawsuit, so the rules change. I can't officially provide anything. Through the open records office we continue to provide some of the information you seem to be seeking - so I'm not sure why the claim that nothing is forthcoming. Dozens of taxpayers have requested the sales and rates for their parcel and that has always been provided. Maybe it is because your questions are too broad - you are asking for things that don't exist (some single document that explains it all). I don't know. But the "proposals" put forth in the suit are completely self serving and without basis - so it doesn't surprise me that they were rejected. Now, everything is either posture or protection - which I guess is what has to be when a lawsuit is involved.

Questions asked in a public forum (here, the meetings, etc) will never be effective - because they can't be answered in that forum adequately.
Maybe someday when this is over, you would like to sit down in front of that projector again and I'll do my best to answer all your questions.

“Tax Fairness is Needed”

Since: Aug 10

Middletown, PA

#66 Jan 6, 2011
Ironic wrote:
Do you know what is ironic? In Tim Barr's log-in,just below his name, is written..."TAX FAIRNESS IS NEEDED". WHAT????
Its not an accident that I put that there. We need tax law reform, assessment reform, reassessment reform, etc. Real Estate taxes are too high, and PA is one of the worst states in the country for fairness of taxation - partly because of 20-40 year old assessments. Although no mass appraisal is perfect (it isn't expected to be), the end result after the entire process is complete - is an improvement in the overall equity relationship between value and taxes.

Being willing to put myself out there and answer questions and provide information makes me an easy target - I get that. It makes it easy for people to develop conspiracy theories that somehow our company, our appraisers, or the county have any motive other than the best data and values possible.

In the end, the process is what it is - and I will continue the efforts my grandfather started in the 1970s - to improve tax fairness in PA.
bill

Fannettsburg, PA

#67 Jan 6, 2011
how many propertys in adams county have i acre on clean and green
bill

Fannettsburg, PA

#68 Jan 6, 2011
tim you are telling me that in 40 years you have done nothing to improve the system
Moose

Gettysburg, PA

#69 Jan 6, 2011
Tim Barr wrote:
<quoted text>
The $12K difference was due to one parcel being coded as Open and the other as Heavily Wooded. In that neighborhood, that can cause a difference up to $12000. In this case, the one coded "Wooded" was corrected through the process and now both parcels have the same value - but that explains the "initial" difference.
All other things being equal, Public sewer lots ARE typically valued MORE than private Septic - but when you compare parcels in different neighborhoods or where there are other differences in the data - the big picture might be different.
I don't mind the story beign told - but half the story? Or the wrong story?
You are right, they started out wrong. They started out wrong because your highly skilled workforce VISITED the site and concluded that one must be heavily wooded, because it said so. A (RB) Revised Notice came out on 9/17 and reduced the assessed values to $13,200 and $8400 respectively. Only after the Formal Appeal, which 21st Century had NOTHING to do with, did they actually change to mirror the value of the other. The Formal Board looked at the values and said, "this can't be right", so they actually raised to lower one to meet the higher one, despite all the evidence that contradicts lots selling for those prices in this neighborhood. So don't go beating yourself on the chest because the values now equal the other. The Formal Review Board which you all had nothing to do with, made them equal.

Now, that's the story. I don't mind you telling the story, but not half the story, or the wrong story.
Moose

Gettysburg, PA

#70 Jan 6, 2011
Tim Barr wrote:
<quoted text>
The IAAO then hired Mr Sauter to do the study - and he provided a glowing report for 21st Century and identified that it was some of the best reval work he had ever seen.
In Cumberland, a split-opinion board of commissioners hired a consultant for an independent review of their reval (like Tioga, the county did most of the work and we provided limited assistance). That report came out good too.
The State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) publishes quality of Assessment statistics annually. 21st Century has for over a decade, and continues to be the company with the top-ranked counties.
It took 512 days on the market for this parcel to finally sell for $3749.

http://spreadthemustard.com/Tax%20Assessment/...

Not the assessed $40,000, nor the $75,900 that mine was assessed. Nope,$3749!

How much advance work did it take to conclude that Carroll Valley unimproved lots were yielding $40,000 -$75,000 for 1/2 acre that you can't build on. This is what they are really selling for...(Thank the Lord that Gary Brown can reason)

http://spreadthemustard.com/Tax%20Assessment/...

We can understand mistakes happening, but we can't understand this...

http://spreadthemustard.com/Tax%20Assessment/...

...or this....

http://spreadthemustard.com/Tax%20Assessment/...

....or this....

http://spreadthemustard.com/Tax%20Assessment/...

Need I go on? This is good reval work? You'll have to try harder to convince me.
Moose

Gettysburg, PA

#71 Jan 6, 2011
Tim Barr wrote:
<quoted text>
I will continue the efforts my grandfather started in the 1970s - to improve tax fairness in PA.
40 years and we STILL have this mess! Sorry, but for some reason I don't get that warm fuzzy feeling that you will get it straightened out. Actually, based on this, I'd say we are regressing...

http://spreadthemustard.com/Tax%20Assessment/...
Michelle- Luzerne County

Dallas, PA

#72 Jan 6, 2011
Oh PLEASE, Mr. Barr, spare me! How dare you point to Luzerne County as an example of your company's fine workmanship! How DARE you! A local reuptable appraiser AND an investigative newspaper reporter both did their own studies comparing sales to your assessed values and both discovered a margin of error of 40% whereby 20% of our properties were under-assesed and 20% of our properties were over-assessed, many by significant amounts. The data given to the state tax equalization board was submitted by our county assesor! What a joke! The data supplied to the "independent" review company for which the taxpayers paid a hefty sum was supplied by YOUR company! We are still undergoing a massive corruption probe by the FBI here in Luzerne County which has already netted 30+ elected officials and employees; including 3 judges, the court administrator, a county commissioner, the Human Relations Manager and so on! I have VOLUMES of research that will coincide with the appraisers and the newspaper reporters results. You over-assessed my home, as well as several others in my community by MORE THAN $400,000. You did the same thing in Luzerne County that you did in Adams, Venango and Tioga.
Moose

Gettysburg, PA

#73 Jan 6, 2011
Michelle- Luzerne County wrote:
Oh PLEASE, Mr. Barr, spare me! How dare you point to Luzerne County as an example of your company's fine workmanship! How DARE you! A local reuptable appraiser AND an investigative newspaper reporter both did their own studies comparing sales to your assessed values and both discovered a margin of error of 40% whereby 20% of our properties were under-assesed and 20% of our properties were over-assessed, many by significant amounts. The data given to the state tax equalization board was submitted by our county assesor! What a joke! The data supplied to the "independent" review company for which the taxpayers paid a hefty sum was supplied by YOUR company! We are still undergoing a massive corruption probe by the FBI here in Luzerne County which has already netted 30+ elected officials and employees; including 3 judges, the court administrator, a county commissioner, the Human Relations Manager and so on! I have VOLUMES of research that will coincide with the appraisers and the newspaper reporters results. You over-assessed my home, as well as several others in my community by MORE THAN $400,000. You did the same thing in Luzerne County that you did in Adams, Venango and Tioga.
Thank You Michelle for giving the Luzerne viewpoint on Tim's fine work.
Kellett

Carlisle, PA

#74 Jan 6, 2011
Moose, I usually agree with you, but your figures are just too high for non-buildable lots in Carrol Valley. I looked at the same numbers you did, but if you go to the transfers as Dave Hazlett (C.V. Boro Manager) did when he appealed 95 Boro owned lots, he came up with$793. for a half acre lot. These lots were all converted into parks before the formal hearings, but if you look at the appeals forms filed by the Boro, you will see his values. My perc failed half acre, originally assessed at $39,400, corrected to$10,400.after the formal appeal,$10,400 by the 3 Commissioners> I payed the $155. for my day in court, even though the taxes are $149/year. It is just not fair. Tim your models are supposed to be based on reality, solds. Show me 1, just 1 perc failed C.V.lot that sold for $10,400 or more. It does not exist. The model used does not fit. I could go on, but the COD 2007-2009 on C.V. lots 73% Tim is that acceptable? Seems high to me. Yes, I did attend your public presentation, it sounded really expert, but it is the end product that matters. Paul Kellett
Moose

Gettysburg, PA

#75 Jan 6, 2011
Kellett wrote:
Moose, I usually agree with you, but your figures are just too high for non-buildable lots in Carrol Valley. I looked at the same numbers you did, but if you go to the transfers as Dave Hazlett (C.V. Boro Manager) did when he appealed 95 Boro owned lots, he came up with$793. for a half acre lot. These lots were all converted into parks before the formal hearings, but if you look at the appeals forms filed by the Boro, you will see his values. My perc failed half acre, originally assessed at $39,400, corrected to$10,400.after the formal appeal,$10,400 by the 3 Commissioners> I payed the $155. for my day in court, even though the taxes are $149/year. It is just not fair. Tim your models are supposed to be based on reality, solds. Show me 1, just 1 perc failed C.V.lot that sold for $10,400 or more. It does not exist. The model used does not fit. I could go on, but the COD 2007-2009 on C.V. lots 73% Tim is that acceptable? Seems high to me. Yes, I did attend your public presentation, it sounded really expert, but it is the end product that matters. Paul Kellett
My chart shows CV lots that don't perk at $3k to $4k. That's the norm, isn't it? Those two I asked Tim about were a friend's that didn't get treated fairly. I never said those values were justified.
Kellett

Carlisle, PA

#76 Jan 6, 2011
Moose, you are using RAYAC figures, if you ask Dave Hazlett, he will tell you 2 things, that Carrol Valley will not accept donations of these lots, even if resale is not restricted, and that his review of transfers, his opinion is that the value of 1/2 acre is $793. Again, thanks for your work, Moose. Paul Kellett
Michelle- Luzerne County

Dallas, PA

#77 Jan 6, 2011
Moose wrote:
<quoted text>
Thank You Michelle for giving the Luzerne viewpoint on Tim's fine work.
Oh, I have so much documentation that will show what a horrendous job was done in our county and the stress and anguish this company thrust upon our citizens. It was a nightmare that isn't over yet for so many people. Awful, just awful and beyond words. Many of us filed individual complaint forms with the Dept of State, Bureau of Occupational and Professional Licensing. We were told there is an ongoing investigation; many of us were interviewed 2 years ago and received letters 1 year ago that the file was in the hands of a prosecuting attorney who was having all of our data reviewed by an expert. The wheel of justice move far too slowly. There is also a legal action pending in our county court system.
Big Dog

Armada, MI

#78 Jan 6, 2011
Mr. Barr,
Thank you for your comments from your perspective. In college my economics and statistics professor told me that he could develop a formula to justify any data set results that were not "pure science" ones by simply adding or subtracting factors, expanding or shrinking paramaters and then "massaging" the numbers to fit the result, "the means justifying the ends" he called it. Since property appraising is not a pure science then any formulas used to achieve values would be subjective in general and only objective to the person using them to predict values. I guess that we will just have to agree to disagree and leave it at that.

Since: Jan 09

Hanover

#79 Jan 6, 2011
Big Dog wrote:
.....snip.....
While the Commissioners may have authorized this reappraisal it is the taxpayers that are paying for it and as the clients they have the right to make certain, to their satisfaction, that they got what they paid for. They also have the right to question their employee (21st Century) about the product as it affects them and to have 21st explain how they arrived at the conclusion they did. Further they have the right to have 21st explain discrepancies in their results without being denegrated by others. I realize that no professional enjoys having their work product questioned but that is part of what the client pays for and the employee should be anxious to please the client when possible.
I may be wrong but I don't think 21st Century was working "directly" for the property owners. They were hired by the 3 county commissioners(as "elected representatives" of all county citizens) and it is only the commissioners that have a duty to supervise the work done by 21st Century. 21st Century can't possibly operate with thousands of county citizens, each with their own agenda, as their supervisors. I realize that there are many, and various, problems with the reassessed values, but it is the commissioners responsibility to make the attempt to correct them as they see fit within the rules and regulations concerning a reassessment process.
Bottom line folks, you're grievance is, or should be, with the 3 County Commissioners, not directly with 21st Century!

Since: Jan 09

Hanover

#80 Jan 6, 2011
Big Dog wrote:
Mr. Barr,
Thank you for your comments from your perspective. In college my economics and statistics professor told me that he could develop a formula to justify any data set results that were not "pure science" ones by simply adding or subtracting factors, expanding or shrinking paramaters and then "massaging" the numbers to fit the result, "the means justifying the ends" he called it. Since property appraising is not a pure science then any formulas used to achieve values would be subjective in general and only objective to the person using them to predict values. I guess that we will just have to agree to disagree and leave it at that.
Or maybe to put it a different way: "Figures can lie and liars can figure"

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