Commissioners, legal team discuss reassessment case

December 6, 2012
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For an hour before the Washington County commissioners’ meeting Thursday, the county’s chief elected officials met for about an hour with lawyers in closed session to consider the next step in a countywide reassessment request brought by Washington and McGuffey school districts.

Commonwealth Court Wednesday dismissed the county’s appeal on what county lawyers are calling a technicality without ruling on the merits of the case.

While Solicitor J. Lynn DeHaven said the board reached no decision about its course of action, two possibilities are a request for argument before the Commonwealth court en banc or what is known as an “allocatur” petition, which is permission to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Robert Grimm, the county’s special counsel, reviewed the legal opinion with the commissioners, DeHaven said.

“We were surprised the court did not directly address the matter before them,” DeHaven said.

Grimm, representing the county, and attorney Susan Mondik Key, representing the school districts, are scheduled to go before Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca Tuesday morning.

Key is asking the judge to set a deadline to hire a vendor that will conduct the countywide reassessment of real estate.

O’Dell Seneca, back in 2008, ordered the commissioners to begin a property reassessment during their then-current terms of office, which ended earlier this year.

The commissioners have dragged their feet on the politically unpopular tax reassessment issue, contending the state Legislature may pass property tax reform, making the estimated $8 million cost of reassessment a waste of taxpayers’ money. No legislation deemed constitutional has been enacted.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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