Chester County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Gavin has ruled for Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust in cutting PREIT's Exton Mall property tax assessment and the dollars the wealthy county's biggest shopping center will have to pay West Chester Area School District, West Whiteland Township, and Chester County, reports the Daily Local News here.
The cuts will come at an inconvenient time for school officials struggling to cope with rising pension costs and for township and county officials trying to maintain public service in the face of residents' resistance to higher property tax rates.
"Gavin, in a ruling made Friday, agreed with the mall’s real estate appraiser that the assessed value of the 39-year-old regional mall was $52.6 million: about $10 million below the county and school district assessors' estiamtes.
That implies a $17 million drop in the mall's total value: "In a hearing before Gavin earlier this year, the mall owners argued that the downturn in the economy has reduced the mall’s overall rental income, and that the property is now worth approximately $95 million," not the district's estimated $112 million.
"At least 20 retail spaces at the mall are vacant, and gone are formerly popular businesses like The Disney Store, Suncoast Video and Houlihan’s Restaurant."
Another big Chester County landlord, Vanguard Group, the nation's largest mutual fund company, is also trying to cut its property taxes. Vanguard headquarters is mostly in Tredyffrin-Easttown School District (NOT Great Valley as incorrectly noted in a previous version of this item).