Archive for June, 2012

You’ve probably heard by now that Republican former state legislator Jane Orie was recently sentenced to a

Former Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny County

The Patriot-News, 2011

prison term of between 2 ½ and 10 years on corruption charges.  The sentence stems from allegations she used her staff to run fundraisers and conduct campaign work.

Here’s what I don’t get.  Why are we okay with our politicians campaigning essentially from their first day in office but we have so much trouble with their staff doing the same?  From day one, our politicians vote virtually always along party lines in order to ensure that they get re-elected.  Typically, during the second half of their term, if not sooner, they are actively campaigning for re-election or for another political office.  Why are we so okay with this?  Explain to me how this is any different than if my assistant Lynn came into my office next Monday and advised me that she was going to spend the next two years openly looking for another job, but expecting me to continue to pay her.

Bottom line is that while I am not okay with my tax dollars paying the office secretary to make copies for her employer’s political campaign, I am far more offended by the politicians themselves spending their entire time campaigning for a job at our expense.

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Appealing Your Tax Assessment: What You Need To Know

June 11, 2012 | Posted by Ken Eisner | No Comments


3 bedroom 2 bath houseUnless you have been hiding under a rock for the past few years [apologies to those of you who enjoy hiding under your rock — hopefully, your rock hasn’t gone up in value], you are well aware of the controversial reassessment of all of the properties in Allegheny County and that the values established will be effective for fiscal year 2013.  The goal of the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review is to determine the fair market value of your property.  Fair market value is what a ready, willing, and able buyer is willing to pay for real estate of a ready, willing, and able seller.


If you purchased your property recently, it is presumed that you paid fair market value.  However, if part of the purchase price included a significant amount of personal property (in other words, your stuff like appliances, light fixtures, window treatments, lawn mowers, etc.), you may be able to contend that the purchase price should be reduced because personal property is not to be included in the valuation.  If you didn’t purchase your property recently, then the best gauge of fair market value is from recent sales of comparable properties, preferably not before 2008.


The best form of evidence to establish fair market value from comparable sales is through an appraisal by a qualified and reputable appraiser.  In many of the appeals that we are handling on behalf of my clients, we have used appraisals.  If it was an informal appeal which gives our clients two bites at the apple (informal and formal appeal), we have often utilized software to which we subscribe that also provides recent sales of comparable properties.  While this software does not permit us to visit each home and therefore is not as precise as an appraisal, it has nonetheless resulted in being credible evidence upon which the Board is considering to make its decisions.  We continue to utilize this software for formal appeals with great success.


As important as considering what to introduce as evidence is what not to introduce.  More often than not, people make the mistake of utilizing comparable properties’ assessments, not purchase prices.  The Board isn’t interested in comparable assessments, only sales.  In other words, this is a losing argument.


If you have filed an appeal and would like my assistance, please do not hesitate to call me.  I handle these cases on a contingency basis, which means that we only get a fee if we save you taxes.

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