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The glaring property tax issue seems to shine more brightly in Berks than almost anywhere else in Pennsylvania. Is it time we start thinking of ways to help ourselves. Could that help begin by revisiting how the process of property tax appeals are handled?

Virtually everyone who owns property in Berks and many that do not are aware that property taxes are out of control. Our Pennsylvania State Legislators cannot seem to agree on a fix. For this and other reasons, I have long been a proponent of not waiting for someone else to help our great county out of its property tax misery and take action unilaterally.

Each year many home buyers and sellers ask me about the property tax appeal process here in Berks. The central question asked is "when can I appeal the taxes." To appeal your property taxes, you have to fill out an application and submit it to the Berks County Assessment Office between July 1 and August 15, a 46-day window. You can find the Assessment Appeal Application on their website at http://www.co.berks.pa.us/dept/assessment/Pages/default.aspx. It is unfortunate when someone asks me this question on August 16th. They now have to wait a whopping 10 1/2 months to appeal their property taxes. At best they will not see any relief for almost two years! You see if by next year they successfully appeal their property tax the results of that decision would not take effect until the following tax year.

The exception to the assessment period rule is new home construction. When someone builds a new home, they receive a new assessment, and they have 40 days from the time they receive it to appeal that assessment no matter what time of year it is. Any change to the assessment is enacted the following fiscal tax year.

I understand there are economic expenditure reasons that these timelines exist but maybe some consideration should be given to broadening the appeal period. Along with expanding the assessment period I also suggest allowing the newly appealed tax assessment to be enacted within 60 days of the ruling.

Many of our seniors are on fixed incomes and take property taxes on the chin. It is hard for even seasoned professionals to stay up-to-date or easily understand complicated issues relating to the latest information on property taxes like the common level ratio, property value fluctuations, and policy issues.  I would recommend allowing our seniors to appeal their property taxes anytime much like those purchasing new homes. I would also suggest swiftly enacting the newly appealed tax assessment to for Berks Countians over the age of 55, so they get immediate relief.

If we here in Berks continue to wait for the Pennsylvania State Legislature to get the property tax situation worked out the issue may reach a critical stage if it has not already. Our property tax situation here in Berks will not be solved by continuing to do the same things and expect different results.

Remember the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Every little bit can help.

Knowledge is Power!

Jeffrey C. Hogue