Reassessment data collecting starts Monday in Peters Twp., New Eagle

June 26, 2014
Field data collectors Laurie Rux and Kevin Humiston go over paperwork before starting on their first houses for the Washington County reassessment project in Washington last year. - Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A residential data collector employed by Tyler Technologies Inc. is scheduled to begin going house to house in Peters Township, Washington County’s most populous community, Monday, as part of the Washington County property reassessment, but it may be quite a while before most homeowners receive such a visit.

Robert Neil, reassessment project manager for the county, made the announcement this week.

With an estimated population of 22,844 this year, Peters has a population density of 897 people per square mile. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Peters had 7,559 housing units.

Appraisals will begin on a small scale with only Laura Metcalfe, whom Wesley Graham, project supervisor for Tyler Technologies, described as “a seasoned employee.” The scale may be small, but she will start on some of what Graham called “the township’s larger homes.”

Average household income in Peters is $145,045 annually, according to the township website. The mean price of a house in 2011 was $304,629, according to the CityData website.

Another person will be added in a month or two, and eventually, four more workers will join them as they complete their tasks in other parts of the county.

Tyler will also be embarking on data collection in the Mon Valley community of New Eagle, population 2,169.

All data collectors, wearing chartreuse vests and displaying Tyler photo identification cards, will be knocking on doors to gather information about each residential property between 8:30 a.m. and about 4:30 p.m., speaking with an occupant of a home who is 18 or older.

They will verify exterior measurements of all buildings, ask for information about the interior of homes and note the dwelling’s age, type of basement, number of rooms, baths, fireplaces, interior finish components and anything that is unique to the building.

Data collectors will not ask to enter a house, but if a homeowner wishes to have the interior inspected, the data collector will comply.

“They may want us to see something,” Graham said in an interview when data collection was about to begin.

An example would be a homeowner wanting to prove that an area inside the home is a cathedral ceiling, not a room.

The data collectors also will be using a tape to measure the home’s exterior.

If anyone has questions about their intentions, homeowners are encouraged to call Tyler’s local number in Arden at 724-228-5019, or the Washington County Tax Revenue office at 724-228-6850.

The firm estimates that 65 percent of the residents won’t be at home when the data collectors come through a neighborhood. In that circumstance, the data collectors will leave on the door a form asking the owner or occupant to fill in information and mail it back to the Tyler Technologies project office at 50 Old Hickory Ridge Road, Washington, PA 15301.

“If you give information to the data collector, it’s going to be to your benefit (for quality control of the data),” said Neil.

Graham said the rate of homeowners’ return rate for mailing in data has been between 68 and 72 percent.

Last fall, Tyler Technologies Inc. deployed its first wave of data collectors, armed with tape measures and clipboards, to Washington’s Fifth Ward as it launched the first property reassessment in Washington County in more than three decades.

Residents of the city and East Washington Borough, the first municipalities to see data-collection teams in September, were also to be the first to receive a recent mass mailing asking them to verify that the information Tyler has on file is correct.

Lest someone mistake the missives as junk mail, the envelopes feature, in bold print, the message, “Important Reassessment Information.”

According to a list Graham, provided, residential areas where data collection has been completed also include Blaine, Canonsburg, Canton, Chartiers, Donegal, Green Hills, Houston, North Franklin, North Strabane and South Strabane. Commercial data collection has been completed in Washington, East Washington, Houston and Canonsburg, and crews are still working on this project in Chartiers and South Strabane Township.

A completion date for residential data collection in Peters “can only be speculative, but Oct. 15 would be the best estimate,” Neil wrote in response to an email.

“Data mailers for (Peters) would probably mailed sometime in January 2015. Once again, these time frames are only speculative.”

To complement information gathered on the ground, Washington County has a new database of aerial photos compiled in March and April, once snow melted and before trees were in full leaf.

Graham said those who own vacant lots won’t be getting any mailings from Tyler until February 2016, when the firm sends preliminary valuation notices.

According to the timeline Tyler developed, property owners will be receiving tax bills based on the reassessment in January 2017.

The Moraine, Ohio, firm was the successful bidder last August for the $6.96 million computer-assisted mass appraisal of 118,000 properties in Washington County. The county commissioners awarded the contract five years after the Washington and McGuffey school districts went to court to force the countywide reassessment.

Washington County’s last property reassessment took effect in 1981 after Peters Township School District spearheaded the effort.

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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