Post Gazette Reports: Assessment chief shows class Gambino takes heat at noncredit course

file2491241837403Assessment chief shows class

Gambino takes heat at noncredit course

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

By Mark Belko, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The students gathered in Room 3002 of the Community College of Allegheny County’s north campus yesterday evening certainly weren’t shy about dissing their teacher.

The subject was Allegheny County property assessments. The instructor was Dominick Gambino, the man in charge of the assessment effort.

“You can vent with me a little bit. I don’t mind that,” he told about 35 people who plunked down $35 each to take the noncredit course, titled “Property Assessment Process: Allegheny County.”

It didn’t take long for the class to get into the swing of things.

“They had a bad situation. Allegheny County took it and made it worse,” one student said.

“I’m not here to convince you we made it better,” Gambino replied. “We’re trying our best to get it done. We’re just like you. We’re trying to make this work.”

“I stopped being a Franklin Park committeewoman because of the whole situation,” another student said. “It’s appalling.”

And so it went. Forty minutes into the first of four classes, Gambino still had been unable to get through his material because of the questions and comments, which came fast and furious.

Why isn’t the sales price the same as the assessment? Why did some values go down and then go right back up again? Why don’t assessors go inside every house? What is the basis for a reassessment?

Not that Gambino seemed to mind. In fact, the county decided to offer the classes through the Community College of Allegheny County to answer such questions and to better prepare people for the next revaluation in 2006.

“I’ll be here as long as you want,” Gambino said at one point. “I don’t duck and hide.”

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Assessment chief shows class

Some people came looking for answers.

George Priputen, 83, of Hampton, said he wanted to understand the “mystery” of the assessment system and get a few pointers on how to win his assessment appeal hearing later this month.

He peppered Gambino with questions during the first part of the night. He was impressed with what he heard.

“He’s knowledgeable. He’s fair, He’s candid,” Priputen said. “That’s what I came here for. I give him credit. He’s answering people’s questions.”

Last night’s class was a cross-section, from financial advisers to Realtors to retirees. Many were older, reflecting the concern seniors have had about the impact of property reassessments on taxes.

Among the materials students received last night were a copy of the county’s Administrative Code, a status report prepared by the Office of Property Assessment and International Association of Assessing Officer standards for assessing property.

As an “added bonus,” Gambino said he would supply each of them with property cards showing numerous characteristics relating to their houses. Any errors, he assured them, could be corrected administratively, possibly lowering the taxable value of the properties.

It was the kind of instruction those in attendance could appreciate.

A class on the Allegheny County property assessment process will be held starting March 4 at the Allegheny campus of Community College of Allegheny County. It also will be offered at the college’s South campus starting Feb. 4 and at its Boyce campus starting April 1. All classes start at 6:30 p.m.

Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263- 1262.

Correction/Clarification: (Published Jan. 10, 2003) A class on the Allegheny County property assessment process will be held starting March 4 at the Allegheny campus of Community College of Allegheny County. An incorrect location was given in a story in Wednesday’s editions. It also will be offered at the college’s South campus starting Feb. 4 and at its Boyce campus starting April 1.

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