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Reassessment needs return to rational thought MARK GUYDISH OPINION

I know there are serious problems for many in the ongoing county-wide reassessment. I know some problems are grave for some property owners. I was the first reporter, as far as I know, to crunch the numbers and show how out of whack Harveys Lake reassessment results were when compared to other municipalities.

If you feel a need to call or write to rant or belittle me after you finish reading this, go ahead. But I’d really prefer a rational response. In fact, that’s what this is about: The rapid disappearance of rational responses.

Blowing whistles and howling catcalls during a commissioners’ meeting? Denigrating and belittling Commissioner Chairwoman Mary Ann Petrilla for being cautious about changing the process when we’ve already spent $9 million in tax money on it? Angrily insisting the process be scrapped when the process isn’t even complete?

Turning Commissioner Greg Skrepenak into a folk hero for proposing inaction and buck-passing?

Please. Let’s take a breath.

The Skrepenak case is, to me, the most curious. This is the man who said it was a good deal to lease the PA Child Care facility for 20 years at an exorbitant rate. This is the guy who dismissed and downplayed the debit-card debacle when it first became public. This is the guy whose friends have benefited generously from no-bid business deals with the county.

And this is the guy who helped craft this year’s county budget with a $10 million deficit (so far) that was papered over with optimism and shaded with rose-colored glasses.

At first I thought Skrep’s populist pandering regarding the tough issue of reassessment looked like a little road work for a future election. You know, paving the way for, say, a run at the state House on a “property tax reform” platform. But now I’m wondering if he didn’t simply intend to distract from the shortcomings of his own performance, exposed yet again when the news of the deficit hit.

Analysis by the numbers

Are some people hurting hard from the reassessment? No doubt. Were there too many errors? Easy to believe. Were some of them egregious? You bet.

Should we just stop the process when there’s still more than two months for appeals? Let’s look at some numbers.

Despite all the growing publicity about disgruntled property owners, attendance at the protests has ranged from less than 30 to about 300. Let’s assume each protest had a completely different group of people (they didn’t). A very generous estimate would say about 1,000 people have publicly protested so far.

Let’s keep being generous to the “stop assessment now” side and say that for every one of those assumed 1,000 protesters, nine more people were just as furious but unable to attend. That makes 10,000 people really, really angry about reassessment.

According to the U.S. Census, there are nearly 95,000 owner-occupied homes in this county. So even if the 10,000 number is correct (and remember, I had to increase the number of protesters at the largest single turnout by a factor of roughly 33 to get to 10,000), that’s just a bit more than 10 percent of the total homeowners, right?

The numbers overwhelmingly suggest the vast majority of people are either satisfied with how reassessment is going or at least not angry enough to demand it be stopped. Petrilla is doing exactly what the numbers call for. Let the process continue. Make contingency plans in case things look bad a month from now.

It’s a rational response. And we need more like it.

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