PA’s Commonwealth Court found that Fayette County waited to assess a property owned by Duke Energy Corp until a tax abatement ended instead of assessing it when Duke Energy upgraded the property because it lacked the money to conduct a proper assessment and wanted to wait until the property was taxable. The Court overturned a trial court’s opinion, saying state law is clear that property assessments must occur when improvements are made on the property, not after.   “Here, although an outside appraiser would have been necessary and costly, the costs of the appraisal at the proper time is not a factor which the board had the luxury of weighing,” the Commonwealth Court explaine.

Duke used 60 acres to build a gas-fired electric-generating station and applied to enroll those acres in the Keystone Opportunity Zone tax abatement program. Duke finished construction on the station in 2003 and told Fayette County. But the county waited to assess the property because it felt the assessment would be expensive — about $25,000 to $50,000 — and it didn’t want to expend funds until the property became taxable and it could see a return on its investment.