Sunday, January 20, 2008

The (Tax) Saga Continues

Soooo, as I mentioned a few days ago one of the things I had to do in the near future was to get the number of rooms and other clearly incorrect information changed on my house's real estate listing with the county/city. My mom found an e-mail of a woman down at the city who was the contact for this and so I e-mailed her and told her the information that was wrong and asked a few questions to clarify things like "what is a basement", "what is a room", etc. She said that she had changed the definitely wrong things, but that somebody would need to come out to check the place out to clear up the shaky things and asked for my phone number.

About half an hour later I get a call from a guy named Charles Rogan, who tells me he's the supervisor for the assessment office and that he's been following the e-mail trail about my house, took a look at my file himself and found that there had been a clerical error when assessing my house and that rather than instead of being assessed at $178k which it currently is, it should've been assessed at about $85k! Hahaha, just a little bit of a difference. This brought it down into what I would consider a fairly reasonable range as far as paying taxes and a huge wave of relief washed over me. He said he would notify the 3 taxing bodies so that they would have the proper new records and all should be good.

An hour later I get another call from a number not in my phone and this time the guy explains that he's with Charles Rogan on speakerphone and that he's Charles' boss and they've been looking over the file together. He says that Charles was right that there was an error with the assessment, but that the new assessment comes in at $185k, not $85k. I ask how that can be considering the previous assessment was lower! He says that the computer program calculated it with the new information and that the assessment was actualyl $200k before, so this really is a drop. I say that I've seen it on the county website as $178, and he says he doesn't think so. I load the page up and sure enough it says $178. He explains this by saying it probably hadn't been updated yet. He starts asking me if I have a homestead and that saying would drop the assessment a bit. I'm pretty much freaking out at this point, my heart racing and I say I don't know what a homestead is! Then the other voice comes in from the speaker phone saying, "Todd, I really suggest you look into the homestead." I repeat again, frustrated that I don't know what that is! The voice repeats the last statement about looking into the homestead.... and it takes me about 10 seconds to wrap my head around it, but I realize that its my dads voice! He'd gotten one of his workers to call me up while my dad was there in the office the whole time, listening, haha. It's been a while since I've seen anybody pull off something that good that wasn't me, so I gotta give him credit ;)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Whoops, I Forgot: Kittens Need Updates Too

I totally forgot that the last pictures I posted of K-Fed Jr were from before I even had him!

Here's Junior with his brother UB. UB is a bit of a special needs cat because his spine is twisted and he looks a bit deforme :P Hes still cute though and has a bit of a more sinister look than Jr.

UB on bottom left, Jr on top right

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Neighbors

I got notice in the mail the other day that there would be a public hearing in front of the zoning board to discuss the request of the developers who are working on the jail space across the street to change the zoning of the building from whatever it was to multiple-family residential. The note said the plans for the new building were available at the zoning office downtown, so my mom and I went down there to check them out this past Tuesday.

The side facing Uxor:

The sides facing Sarah (left) and 13th (right):


The good:
-The plans include the crappy college rental apartments across the street that were built up against the old jail. These were always rented out by dumb frat boys who would leave beer bottles in the street and barbecue while their dumb hoochies and loud friends would come by. In the 6 months I've lived here I think they've broken their windows 5-7 times. Needless to say they weren't exactly an asset to the neighborhood.

-Parking for the complex enters the "basement" on Sarah and then has an exit on 13th St. One of my concerns was that they would put the parking garage on Uxor because it's the least desirable in terms of view, so this was good to see. I really didn't want people driving up my street all the time and knocking off even more of my neighbors side-view mirrors.

-The design isn't bad. No aluminum siding, decent variation to the building as you go from bottom to top, and in general it's better than a lot of other new housing I've seen around the Southside recently. If I hated it I'd be pissed, but if I really liked it I might be even more pissed cause it would make my place look less unique/cool.

The bad:
-It's tall... and long. Although they list it as reducing the height from 53' to 40', only one portion of the building was actually 53' before, so the portion facing me is almost definitely going to be taller than the previous building. This blocks light and puts a big building right at the sidewalk, which may feel a bit ominous. My mom thinks the fact that there is a large building across the street from my house will make it dwarf mine and lower my property value... but considering I'm swapping a desolate, abandoned jail/police station and a crappy apartment for brand new condos, I think it'll still be a net increase.

.... and I think that's really the only negative thing about it. I may or may not go to the hearing and suggest that they put townhouses in instead. Single family residential is really waht the area is zoned for, so when the jail is gone, this is really what the land "should" be used for according to the zoning board. I'm not sure how much me going down there and suggesting that would really do though, or if it's worth making the developers come up with new architectural plans that I might like even less.

OK, enough posting for tonight... I'm spent.

I'm a Nice Guy (?)

Guess they didn't see the "No Parking" sign.

I found out about a month ago that the proper procedure for dealing with somebody parked in front of your house is to call 911 (surprise!). This seems a bit strange, but the way it works is you call them and then you specify whether or not you want the car ticketed or towed. If you say towed, then they make an attempt at contacting the person whose car it is (not quite sure how...), and then if they don't get a hold of them it's time for the car to take a little ride.

So far I've used this new-found knowledge twice. The first time was around 3am as I was coming home in my car. I parked somewhere else in the alley and called 911. It went something like this:
*ring ring ring*
"We're sorry, no emergency operators are available right now, please hold.
*ring ring ring*
"We're sorry, no emergency operators are available right now, please hold.
(repeat for about 2 minutes)
"Hello, Pittsburgh 911..."

Good thing it wasn't actually an emergency. I couldn't help but wonder how many other people were calling in for non-emergencies and how many other people were watching the person that just robbed them (or worse) run away while they sat on hold.

I didn't need to get into my garage, so just told them to ticket the person. By the time I woke up the next morning the car was gone.

Two nights ago I was actually home when somebody parked in front of the garage (see above picture). I went outside and looked around to see if I could find whose it was... but no luck. So I waited about 25 minutes in case it was just somebody swinging by somebody's house real quick, and then I called the cops. This was a bit different considering I had work the next morning and my car was in the garage, but I was thinking of biking to work anyways and it seemed likely the person was just at a bar and going to come back later that night... so I told them to just give the car a ticket. When I woke up the next morning the car was still there and I was able to check out how much the ticket was: $92.50, a pretty good deterrent to having them park there again.

Over the past couple days I told a few people about this and more than a couple times the response I got was, "Wow, you're a nice guy... I would've towed them." I dunno, although it's hard for me to imagine how somebody could be inconsiderate enough to park in front of what's clearly an inhabited house, it just seems like such an unpleasant experience to have your car towed I'd really rather not have to do it unless needed. Additionally, if somebody's that much of an jerk-off it's also likely they're a jerk-off enough to smash my window or garage door while they stand on my sidewalk calling somebody to pick them up to drive them to their car.

I'm quite possibly kinda screwed.

So, I got my notice of tax re-assessment in the mail today... and it's not so good.

It's assessed at about $180k, which means I would pay about $5k in taxes per year! I mean, I know the city needs money for various things, and I don't mind paying the 3% income tax for living in the city, but now to top it off we have the 10% drink tax and I have to drop $5k on taxes for my house? I guess what really ticks me off about the property tax is that it's the City of Pittsburgh that imposes it and the 3% income tax... So all the suburbanites don't have to pay any of it, yet would never be in this area if it weren't for the City of Pittsburgh, and they still reap all the benefits of being in the city. I suppose that's how/why cities like Baltimore get so run down and dilapidated. It's sad that so many people feel the need to save a few bucks at the expense of others. Granted, I'm annoyed that I have to pay so much and it's going to make things fairly hard on me financially, but a large portion of the reason I feel that way is because others, in my mind, are essentially cheating the system (that's not to say the city hasn't made it extremely easy to cheat the system... but still).

OK, enough about taxes and back to what I'm going to do about it. My first thought was, "Well, there's the tax abatement program that lets me slide on property taxes for 3 years because I built a new house and have improved the city. Great!" Then I went to get the forms in preparation for submitting my taxes... I'd assumed it would be like the tax credit for my instantaneous water heater that I submit when I file my taxes... nope! Turns out you're supposed to submit it 60 days from when the building permit was issued (well over a year ago). I'm going to try and see if I can get it anyways, but assuming they won't let me slide, that will add up to about $7,500 I've lost by making me think of that annoying phrase, "You know what they say about assumptions..."

They improperly listed the number of rooms and bedrooms I have, as well as the type of roof and the fact that I don't have a basement. These things may give me a little bit of fodder to base an appeal of my assessment on, but the bulk of it will need to be based on comparably houses in the neighborhood: something there aren't many of.

This whole process should definitely be a learning experience, though I'm sure a time consuming and possibly frustrating one as well.