Lancaster County Real Estate Taxes: Making Sense of Common Level Ratios and Millage Rates

July 13, 2012

Only 19 days left to challenge tax assessments. In Lancaster County, all appeals of the assessment must be filed by August 1, 2012. An appeal filed after that date will be heard in 2013. 

New common level ratio (CLR) numbers are in place for the period 7/1/12 – 6/30/13. Lancaster County’s CLR dropped from last year’s 1.31 to 1.27. In addition, total tax millage rates now include 2012-2013 school district tax rates. This information is relevant in deciding whether to file an assessment appeal. CLR is the factor applied to the assessment that reflects the ratio between assessment value and fair market value. For example, an assessment of $100,000 infers a fair market value of $127,000 [$100,000 times 1.27]. Residential and commercial property owners can multiply the assessment by the CLR to see if the fair market value is accurate. If not, an assessment appeal may be in order. 

The millage rates determine the total annual property tax load. The first three digits of your property account number correspond to the municipality in which it is located.  Assuming the property with the $100,000 assessment is in Manheim Township, line 390 tells you that Manheim Township residents pay a total of 24.0285 mills annually, representing annual total taxes of $2,403.

You can find your property’s account number and check your property’s assessment online. In addition, the account number is listed on the school district real estate tax notice.

If the Manheim Township property owner has had an appraisal stating that the fair market value of the property is not $127,000 but rather $100,000, the application of common level ratio means that the assessment should be $78,740 [$100,000 divided by 1.27]. An assessment of $78,740 would mean that annual taxes would be $1,892 [$78,740 times 24.0285 divided by 1,000] instead of $2,403.  

Is a property tax savings of a little over $500 a year worth incurring the cost of filing the appeal? The reassessment previously scheduled for 2013 has been postponed until at least 2017. Accordingly, you can look at tax savings over several years. Costs associated with an assessment appeal include filing fees ranging from $25 to $100, attorney’s fees if you choose to proceed with counsel and possibly an appraisal fee. We have several lawyers who are accustomed to evaluating these matters on behalf of residential and commercial property owners. 

Christina Hausner is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, PA. She received her law degree from Duquesne University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas.