Property taxes are going up from 11 to 12 mills in Mount Oliver borough in 2005. Council unanimously passed the rate increase during its Dec. 20 meeting as part of the municipal budget that was adopted for next year.
The municipal spending plan for 2005 calls for a $1.8 million budget, a significant increase from the $1.65 million budget in 2004.
The budget increased primarily due to wage hikes agreed upon through binding contracts for the borough's police, administration and public works employees. The borough must also pay more toward the police pension plan than it did in 2004.
One mill of taxes represents $70,000 of income for the borough which also derives income from its annual wage tax and occupation taxes.
Council president Marty Palma noted that the borough failed to collect $70,000 in 2004 property taxes from delinquent homeowners. The defiant actions by the scofflaws, has cost the borough the equivalent of one full mill per year.
Palma said approximately 30 homeowners are in the process of being prosecuted through the local district justice's office for not paying their property taxes. Palma said many of them have not paid their property taxes for several years.
“We are going to take aggressive action against these individuals,” Palma said. “We can no longer tolerate them not paying their fair share at the expense of the other citizens who pay their taxes in a timely fashion.”
With the rate going up one mill in 2005, the owner of a home valued at $50,000 can expect to pay $40 to $50 more in taxes than was paid in 2004.
The borough budget also includes a line item that will employ a part-time policeman in 2005 at a rate of $10 per hour with no fringe benefits.
Mount Oliver has only nine fulltime police officers, including Chief Frank Mosesso. This is four fewer policemen than the borough had three years ago when it made a concerted effort to employ only full-time officers.
In recent months, several citizens have complained during the council meeting public forums, asking for more police protection.
Several residents continued their complaints at last week's council meeting, citing several examples of fights, vandalism and drug-dealing in two neighborhoods of the borough.
Because of a fear of retaliation, the names of the complaining residents and their addresses were withheld from this newspaper article.
Palma said the borough police department is doing everything it can within the legal system to have these problem-residents evicted. Palma said the police chief and Mayor John Smith have been working with the landlords of the misbehaving residents to have them removed from the borough. However, they said this process takes time while going through the district justice's office.
The mayor and chief also said they occasionally get assistance from the city police in responding to domestic disturbances, particularly those late at night. However, borough officials said the city's Zone 3 police station on the South Side, just like the borough police department, is working on a limited budget. Many times, only a handful of officers are on duty for certain shifts.
In addition to the law-abiding homeowners with complaints about neighbors, two business people on Brownsville Road complained to council last week about a need for more police presence in the community.
A women who has run a hair salon in the borough for more than 20 years, said loitering has become a growing problem on the Brownsville Road business corridor near her shop. The woman said she wants the borough to stress to new borough business
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owners that loitering will not be tolerated. Palma suggested that the hair salon owner work with the Mount Oliver Chamber of Commerce about adopting a policy for combating this problem.
In other business, council authorized Gateway Engineers to advertise for specifications to erect a public works building next to the municipal building where a park-let currently stands. For more than a year, council has been trying to devise a way to construct a 25-foot by 100-foot cement storage building in a cost-efficient manner.
In council's attempt to attract a contractor through the bidding process earlier this year, the submitted bids were too high for the borough budget. The bids were well beyond the $200,000 spending limit because the ground at another possible location for the building was found to be too unstable. Installing an adequate foundation, on ground located behind the borough administration office raised the minimum cost of the public works building to more than $275,000.