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From the desk of
Adams County Commissioner Moreno

Lisa Moreno(10/1) Hello readers. My name is Lisa Moreno and I am the third County Commissioner that you, the reader will have the opportunity to hear from. I was born and raised in Adams County and my family and I reside in Mt. Joy Township. I am in the middle of my first elected term as County Commissioner.

I have decided to inform readers of a critical project that the County is currently involved in. Hopefully most residents are aware that Adams County is in the middle of a county-wide reassessment. The information in this writing has been taken from a pamphlet that each property owner will receive once their property is visited during the reassessment and may be found in its entirety at .

So you ask, what is a county-wide reassessment? Real estate taxes are calculated for each property, based on the appraised Fair Market Value at a given point in time (base-year). This base-year is used for assessments each year or until a new base-year is established by another county-wide reassessment. The current base-year for Adams County assessments is 1990. This is when the last county-wide reassessment was completed.

Why does Adams County need a reassessment? Reassessments are needed when property values, used to make up the tax base, become inconsistent, unfair, and too old to reflect current trends and changes in the value of real estate. It is the legal responsibility of the Adams County Board of Assessment to establish the Fair Market Value of all county real property. This is done to establish a base-year market value for real estate tax purposes. To achieve a fair and equitable Tax base, two primary objectives must be accomplished: 1) Market values in the year of a reassessment must be at 100 percent of true market value; and 2) Properties of similar type, characteristics, and neighborhood must have uniform values. When this is achieved, each property owner will be paying his or her fair share of the tax burden.

The problem with the real estate tax system lies in the fact that property values continue to change over time; therefore, assessments cease to reflect real market values. Since the real estate tax is an "at value" tax, the fairness of the tax changes as the real estate market changes. These changes vary between property types, geographic areas, and other factors.

Since Adams County's last reassessment was in 1990, property values throughout the county have appreciated at different percentages. This market change has created a lack of uniformity, resulting in owners paying more or less than their proportionate share of the tax burden.

Adams County has contracted with 21st Century Appraisals, Inc. to conduct the reassessment. 21st Century is responsible for updating the Assessment Office's computer software, collecting data in the field, providing public relations program, developing new Fair Market values, calculating Clean and Green values, conducting the informal review of values, and providing certified assessors to assist the county with formal appeals.

What should I expect when a field lister visits my property? Field listers are trained to gather data in a prescribed format and will visit every property in the county. During this visit, property descriptions will be verified, photographs will be taken of the property's primary structures, and information will be recorded on a property record card. This information will later be used during the valuation phase. Field listers do not set property values, nor will they go inside homes.

All field listers will always knock on the door of the primary residence, display an official county ID, and if available will ask the resident/tenant about their home. An Understanding Reassessment Brochure, door hanger with existing property data will be left at each residential property. If an individual approaches a resident stating that they are a field lister, but cannot produce proper credentials, owners should not permit them on their property; the police and Reassessment Office should be notified immediately.

I would like to address some myths and misunderstandings of a reassessment.

A common myth is that a reassessment means that my taxes are going to increase. NOT NECESSARILY. Based on a typical reassessment, about one-third of the tax base will see a decrease in their tax bills, one-third will stay the same, and only one-third will pay more taxes.

Another common myth is that the reassessment will provide new revenue for taxing bodies. This is NOT TRUE. There is a state law that requires that after the tax base has been equalized and brought to current market value, the millage must be reduced in order to collect the same revenue as collected in the previous year. After the equalized millage is set, and if the tax body needs to collect additional revenue, they may do so; however they are limited to the amount of additional total revenue that may be collected from taxpayers in the year following the reassessment. The statutory limit for counties, townships, and boroughs is five percent. The statutory limit for school districts is 10 percent.

21st Century will be in the Carroll Valley and Fairfield area around the second week in October. Please read your local newspapers and listen to local radio stations for up-to-date information. I hope the information contained in this article will help ease some questions or concerns that you as a property owner my have.

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