South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Boro offers amnesty to tax scofflaws


January 27, 2009

Property owners have until March 15 to pay up without late penalties

Amnesty for residents delinquent in paying their real estate taxes from 2004 to 2007 was passed unanimously by Mount Oliver Council at its Jan. 19 meeting.

If the tax scofflaws pay their taxes by March 15, all late penalties will be waived.

After March 15, the delinquents will be taken to the magistrate, and their names published in the newspaper.

"We will go after what they owe, and put liens on property," said Councilwoman Billie Michener, who promised a more aggressive approach to collecting past-due taxes than was done by prior councils.

As the solicitor did the earlier collections, nothing is owed prior to 2004. But since that time, about $180,000 is due the borough.

The collections will be done in-house to save money, said Mrs. Michener. Delinquents should contact Dottie Smith at the borough building at 412-431-8107, extension 101.

The meeting began with a discussion of 2009 budget revenues and expenses after resident Ron Becker questioned council's assertion that the new budget contains no tax increase when residents will now be paying a garbage fee.

At last month's meeting, council adopted a 2009 budget with no tax increase and no service cuts.

But starting this month, residents will be billed directly on a quarterly basis for garbage pick-up by Waste Management at a per household cost of $10.40 per month. The fees were previously part of the property taxes and the borough paid them.

Council President James Cassidy said the change was made to save the borough money.

Mr. Becker began his comments by saying his real estate taxes rose four-fold from $148.18 in 1997 to $740.88 in 2008.

"It's quite an increase over the years," he said.

At the same time, his county taxes rose only $33, and his school taxes doubled.

He called increasing the cost to live in the borough, as with the garbage fee, a "major mistake" as there was little to entice a family to move there.

With two mills dedicated for years to trash pickup, and each mill generating $70,000, Mr. Becker asked where is the $140,000 going now that the borough is no longer paying for that service?

"Council didn't just sit up here with pencils and start writing numbers," said Mr. Cassidy of borough finances.

The 2009 revenues include a budgeted $850,000 for property tax, which is down from $905,000 in 2008. The business privilege and occupational tax is anticipated at $328,000, which is less than the 2008 amount of $369,900.

At the same time, there are added expenses over 2008, such as $4,580 more for general office, $6,945 more for general government, $5,800 more for unemployment compensation, and more. A new full-time patrolman will cost the borough $22,000.

Mrs. Michener said serious steps will be taken this year to collect delinquent real estate taxes.

To Mr. Becker's question of what will incite families to move to Mount Oliver, Mayor Jeff Repasky said when fuel rose to over $4 per gallon, borough vehicles still had to be on the road.

In addition, residents are paying for others, such as tax scofflaws and those with housing vouchers.

In spite of those challenges, council is able to maintain what we have, said Mayor Repasky, who called the garbage fee "another source of revenue."

Mr. Cassidy cited the need to maintain the police, street, and fire departments.

"We felt to eliminate any of those

services would be detrimental to the borough," he said.

In the engineer's report, council voted to pay Insight Pipe Contracting $35,697 for sanitary sewer work mandated by a federal consent decree.

Funding will come from a low-interest loan the borough secured through PennVest, the Pa. Infrastructure Investment Authority.

Council adopted resolutions authorizing assistant borough engineer Justin Wagner to apply for a grant for demolitions, and for funding for work on the Ormsby Park retaining wall.

Council also voted to authorize Mr. Wagner to get an estimate on repairing the Amanda Ave. sink hole.

"It's been going on too long for these people," said Mrs. Michener of Amanda Ave. residents.

In the public safety report, Councilman Patrick Malloy said 657 calls were answered last month. The total for 2008 was 11,107.

There were three drug arrests, and the canine units were used 52 times. The canine officer did 23 park-and-walks.

In the year-end fire department report, Mr. Malloy said there were 171 incidents in 2008, for a total of 2,328 man hours.

Seven members received National Firefighter I Certification, to raise the total to 24 members with that certification. The fire company also has 3 certified Firefighter II members, 12 Basic Vehicle Rescue Technician certified members, and one member with State EMS Instructor Certification.

"These people are very valuable to the borough," said Mr. Malloy of the fire company.

Police Officer Kevin Lockhart was commended for installing a surveillance camera in the jail on his own time.

Code enforcement officer Tom Plietz said residents who do not shovel snow from sidewalks in front of the homes may be cited. Snow cannot be shoveled from driveways or sidewalks into the street.

In the solicitor's report, Jim Perich said the Mount Oliver Ambulance Service donated $4,000 for 107 new street signs and 15 new traffic control signs. The borough will install them.

The meeting concluded with Mr. Cassidy reappointing Councilman John Smith, Sr., and Mr. Perich as delegates to the Allegheny County Boroughs Association, with Mr. Perich the alternate.

The next council meeting will be on Feb. 16.


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