Ballot Referendum Planned for Lackawanna County Reassessment

SCRANTON -- In November, voters in Lackawanna County will decide whether to reassess every piece of property in the county.

You may wonder why there's a movement to do something the county hasn't done in 50 years

A reassessment basically makes taxing rates fairer.

Some people will pay less in property taxes and some people will pay more.

This is not the first time in the past 50 years that commissioners in Lackawanna County have brought up the idea of a county-wide tax reassessment.

The three commissioners are split on the idea. Commissioner Laureen Cummings is against it, while Commissioner Jerry Notarianni supports it. Commissioner Pat O'Malley thinks the voters should decide.

"At this time, I believe the only way that this could happen is to make a motion that a referendum for reassessment be put on the November general election ballot for the citizens to make their decision on reassessment," said Commissioner Pat O'Malley,(D) Lackawanna County.

The commissioners voted 2 to 1 for a referendum to appear on November's ballot.

Ralph Chase came to speak at the meeting. He was part of a reassessment effort in 1972.

"It was $4-5 million in '72. I would guess today, the cost is probably $12-18 million," said Chase.

A county-wide property reassessment would take several years and several million dollars these days.

County officials estimate it would cost $8 -12 million. That would be paid for in one of two ways. The county could take out a loan or it could raise taxes by an estimated 15 percent.

Some people fear the reassessment itself could raise property taxes, especially for people who have lived in their homes since the last reassessment in the 1960s.

"It's just not fair to these older residents to do this to them," said Jermyn resident Katie Hosey.

Homeowners also asked the commissioners for help in understanding how a reassessment could affect them

"Education, education, education, before it is even put on the ballot, town meetings," said Joanne Wilson of Jermyn. "They're very, very important."

Lackawanna County is one of only a handful of counties in Pennsylvania that has gone so long without a reassessment. Most states in the country require counties to do it every few years.

5 comments

  • Do as I say, not as they do.

    The assessor’s office needs to be looked at long and hard. Where are the jobs to support an increase in taxes? Is this so the county can pay too much for more buildings in Scranton? They know which properties and owners aren’t paying their fair share, they don’t need to punish everyone. They have already crushed growth in the county because of their aggressive taxing scheme for new homes, maybe in November we need to clean house to keep everyone from suffering.

  • Sam I Am

    Taxes may drop in some cases.
    BUNK
    Don’t You Believe It !!

    Remember they never make a move that benefits you.

  • Dave

    Mine was done a few years back. The guy doing it mentioned they do not go into the house and only measure the outside.. In other words sq footage. Also condition was not taken into account. I built my house on the cheap to get out of a trailer on the property and Just down the road is a house rumored to cost 500,000.00 to build. My taxes went up 3 fold after tearing down the trailer that was over taxed and moving into the house so I went down to see what others were paying in my area and found out all but 1 of 20 were paying less and the one 500 k home was paying only 200.00 more than me and we were the 2 highest. By law you cannot pay more than the avg in the neighborhood so I took pictures jotted down the acreage of all 20 homes next to me printed them out with the acreage/tax and got a 5 minutes to plead my case. A lawyer friend told me I would be lucky to get a cpl hundred taken off. They were amazed at how well I was prepared and a month or so later I got notice that I would be paying what the avg home was paying in the area. It doesn’t take a rocket scientists to just look at a home from the street and location and get a rough estimate of it value as any realtor can asses to. People with Mc- Mansions on avg pay the same as a home in Scranton with the same footprint and they say it’s based on the value of a home..”NOT” …
    Here is the kicker..The guy who assessed the house a few years back mentioned that he went to what was suppose to be an empty lot of a well known high profile individual and found a sprawling MCMansion . Also when I was a lot younger and working at a car lot in Scranton the guy who owned a building next to the lot told me as a friend that he was paying too much tax for his building in downtown Scranton and went to a friend at the assessment office and he told me the friend opened the books and erased a zero off his assessment. That was 40 years ago I would Imagine things have not changed as people don’t change as the empty lot can attest to. You don’t need to measure every house and incur those costs it takes 50 times less effort to just look from the road and the location to give an estimate of a homes value .It would save millions ,find those cheaters. I would imagine the county could raise millions on those alone and give everybody a break along with assessing MCMansion for what they are actually worth. After all they are valued more.

  • Thomas

    When Lackawanna County tried this several years ago it was discovered that numerous properties were not even on the county’s records, The records were so mixed up that the company hired to perform the reassessment asked for additional funding to complete the process. At that point the project was dropped. Are the records still in such a deplorable state? What about the work done on the previous reassessment that the taxpayers paid for already? Is that down the drain and must it be started from scratch again?

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