Changes looming for property values

Update on aerial imagery project given

BURNHAM — Changes are coming to the assessment values of properties in Burnham Borough.

During the Monday night meeting of the Burnham Borough Council, Laura Simonetti, of the Mifflin County Geographic Information Systems Department, gave an update on the aerial imagery project.

“Since we were here in April, the entire county has been completed,” she explained. “We were able to finish taking the pictures of the county in March and April.”

The project was to help the county discover where development, both new projects and the removal of projects, has occurred.

Simonetti said many homes in Burnham are going to have assessment values lowered as a result of the images that were taken.

The idea of assessments being lowered was not agreed upon by all members of the council. Council member Steve Sheaffer and Mayor Matt Harpster both said they have seen some go up because of the GIS imaging.

“You guys will get revenue,” Sheaffer said. “But no one else will get a break.”

Council member Matt Deamer said he has a neighbor whose values went up because his garage reportedly went up in size, even though, according to Deamer’s neighbor, it has never changed since it was installed.

Simonetti said the increase in assessment could be because the garage was not properly measured or assessed in the first place.

“So he has to pay more because someone screwed up before he owned it, that doesn’t seem fair,” Deamer said.

Simonetti said that this example is why someone buying a new home should look at the property, and tax cards, so they know exactly what they are buying.

She continued to stress that many residents in the borough are, and will be, seeing a reduction in their assessment costs.

Another question was raised by council was regarding what, as far as size, would be up for assessment, or if the materials used in the construction are taken into consideration as well. Simonetti replied that unless a shed, or other out-buildings, are larger than 200 square-feet, it will not be assessed. Though she did state that there is a different standard for attached structures such like decks or porches.

However, she stressed to the council that the assessment office is not just looking at the pictures before the change. The GIS office makes a note of what the data the image is providing, which is then given it to a field operator who then goes out and looks at the property. If changes are required, then they are made.

“If residents have questions, they are more than welcome to come talk to us,” she said, offering them the opportunity to, “Look at the different pictures taken.”

The major positive to this project is that it will help get property assessments more even throughout the county.

Simonetti said that in another part of the project, the census, found 197 new residents in the borough. In response to this, she stated, “I was surprised to find there are a lot of rental properties in Burnham,” Simonetti explained.

The Burnham Borough Council meets the first Monday of each month at the borough.