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Mt. Lebanon plans fee, higher taxes

Mt. Lebanon officials on Monday released a proposed $28 million budget for 2011 that includes a new monthly fee for storm sewer repairs and a .48-mill property tax increase for road repairs.

Raising taxes would require the commissioners to overturn an ordinance they approved this year that prohibits increases for road projects. The municipality needs $1.8 million to rebuild a mile of roadway each year, but it has spent about half that each of the past two years, Municipal Manager Steve Feller said.

“We need to have some sustainable, reliable funding source for street reconstruction. It’s one of the most basic services we provide,” Feller said. “We’ll have to revisit that ordinance. The only other option is not to do streets.”

For the past two years, the municipality paid for roadwork by selling about $2 million in bonds, a practice now prohibited by another ordinance, Assistant Manager Marcia Taylor said.

The .48-mill increase would cost the owner of a $200,000 home $96 more per year in property taxes and put the tax rate at 5.37 mills.

The budget includes a monthly stormwater fee amounting to $5 to $6 per housing unit, starting in May. Residences, businesses and other buildings would pay based on how much pavement, sidewalk and building is on their property that keeps rain from soaking into the ground and channels that flow into Mt. Lebanon’s storm sewers.

If approved, the fees would pay to repair, replace and upgrade the municipality’s 75 miles of storm sewers. Public Works Director Tom Kelley said the municipality’s storm sewer system is about 70 years old, and officials believe they’ll need to invest about $1.8 million in capital improvements over the next five years.

Consultants the municipality hired to study such fees said last week they are a fairer method of paying for storm sewer improvements than a tax increase. Commission President D. Raja said, however, he would consider approving the fees only if commissioners reduce property taxes by an equal amount.

The budget would leave most services and staffing at current levels, in part because of a survey that found most residents are satisfied with municipal services and wouldn’t want them cut, but neither would they like the government to spend more, Feller said.

The budget is available for review at the municipal building, 710 Washington Road; the public library, 16 Castle Shannon Blvd.; and under the “finance department” section at mtlebanon.org. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday in the municipal building, at a time to be announced.


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