Lower property values risk revenue

Alyssa Coleman, Opinions Editor

The appraised values of two closed Richland Township restaurants have been reduced 50 to 60 percent, meaning less tax revenue for Richland School District, Richland Township and Cambria County.

The buildings, former Ponderosa Steakhouse and Ryan’s, have been appraised at a much lower price than when they were first constructed.  Ponderosa had been appraised at $566, 680, while Ryan’s was appraised at $725,960.

The decision to reduce the buildings’ appraised values was made by a county assessment appeals board.  Ponderosa’s assessment value dropped by 52 percent and Ryan’s by 62 percent.

Alletram LLC of Adventura, Florida, the company that purchased both of the buildings, lodged an appeal of their appraised values with the county board to reduce the real estate taxes the company pays on the properties.

If the appraisal decision is not appealed, the Richland School District would be losing the most revenue.

Arnie Nadonley, Richland School District’s superintendent, did not respond to a request for comment in time.

Bridget Kutsick, Richland Township resident, says she isn’t happy that raising taxes may be an outcome.

“I’m hoping they explore all other options before they decide to raise taxes,” Kutsick said.

“Our taxes are paid through our mortgage payment, so a raise in our taxes will cause an increase in our monthly mortgage payment. This is really going to hurt us financially. Our payment is already high.”

Kim Nagy, another Richland Township resident, said she is surprised an appeal is being filed.

“I’m surprised the owners are fighting it since their taxes on the property would in all likelihood decrease,” Nagy said, “I would be concerned, though, as to how much it would increase residential tax rates.”

Gary Costlow, Richland Township solicitor, said at a Sept. 17 supervisors’ meeting that a decision needed to be made whether to challenge the reduced appraisals in county court.

“They’re not worth as much as when they were first appraised,” Costlow said, “The buildings are old, vacant and there is not much traffic in that area as there was in the past. All of those things contribute to the value of a building.”

Property values around Richland Township have been seeing significant declines lately, most notably the Galleria mall, which declined from around $30 million to around $15 million.

Costlow said he was not optimistic a challenge to the reduced for the restaurants’’ appraisals would be successful, but he would check with the solicitor of the school district, which stands to lose the most revenue with the reduced appraisals.

Costlow says the current market value of the buildings is around $1,110,970 each, and that he thinks even that may be too high.

The appraisal appeal decision, according to Costlow, would have been decided last week.