KDKA Radio's Marty Griffin (left) is self-righteously railing about Allegheny County assessments this morning, spreading stories of scary tax increases that, he says, are soon to confront residents of downtown Pittsburgh and the Strip District. Griffin's claims -- that owners of Strip District homes will soon experience ten-fold increases in property taxes, for example -- turn out to be more slapstick that scary, however, if examined even briefly.
The reason tax bills in the Strip District are certain to increase in general is that luxury condominiums have supplanted abandoned warehouses. The (rare) owner of an unimproved Strip District home may encounter a slight tax increase because of the Strip's general rising tide (which makes that home more valuable), but Griffin is conflating granite-and-mahogany penthouses with siding-and-spackle tenements. A (subsidized) $1.2 million loft will -- and should -- generate a far greater tax obligation than did the broken-window rathole it replaced. The outrage is that the loft-dweller has been permitted to shirk civic obligations for years by Dan Onorato's Reverse Robin Hood Theory Of
Griffin's half-cocked rant also overlooks the crucial role of tax rates in calculation of tax obligations. Most assessments will increase, because values have increased, but an increased assessment does not necessarily signal an increased tax obligation. To the contrary, an increased assessment could generate a reduction in tax obligation, because Pennsylvania law will obligate taxing agencies to reduce tax rates in proportion to the increased assessments.
Reassessment does not involve the aggregate burden of real estate taxation nearly so much as the identification of which property owners are forced to shoulder that burden. Dan Onorato, Rich Fitzgerald, and Marty Griffin prefer that average (and below-average) property owners subsidize discounts for the affluent.
Griffin's statements could support an inference that he doesn't even know what he doesn't know, but we believe it more likely that Griffin is aware of the factors that render his simplistic analysis so misleading. Which, for him, is worse; profound ignorance would reflect far better on Griffin that any of the other conceivable explanations.
Infytune: Take The Power Back," Rage Against The Machine
Infytune: The Great Pretender," Freddie Mercury