On September 22, 2017, Judge Idee Fox of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas issued orders quashing the Philadelphia School District’s 2017 reverse assessment appeals for lack of uniformity. At oral argument on September 8, 2017, Judge Fox ruled from the bench, using the recent July 5, 2017 Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Valley Forge Towers Apartments et al. v. Upper Merion Area School District, 163 A.3d 962 (Pa. 2017) as a guide, that the school district violated the uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution by only appealing commercial properties and not appealing any of the under-assessed single-family residential properties in the city for the tax year 2017.

Philadelphia was the first big arena for the Valley Forge Towers uniformity analysis to be used and the Philadelphia commercial property owners are glad to see that the court correctly applied the Supreme Court’s analysis in finding that the school district discriminated against commercial property owners by only filing 140 reverse assessments appeals on 140 of the largest commercial properties in the City of Philadelphia. All of the other school districts in Pennsylvania that have been for years systematically filing reverse assessment appeals only on commercial properties within their taxing districts should be on notice that similar rulings are on the horizon. Going forward, commercial property owners should be requesting extensive discovery regarding the school districts policies and procedures for selecting properties to appeal, and which properties were reviewed and ultimately appealed by the school district.

The Valley Forge Towers decision and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ruling have now given commercial property owners the long awaited tools needed to successfully fight these school district reverse assessment appeals.

If you are subject to a school district initiated assessment appeal, please make sure your rights are protected by contacting Paul R. Morcom (717-237-5364) or Randy Varner (717-237-5464), who represent property owners in school district reverse assessment appeals throughout Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.