Property taxes to jump 60% in proposed West Deer budget |

Property taxes to jump 60% in proposed West Deer budget

Brian C. Rittmeyer

Property taxes would increase next year by nearly 60 percent under West Deer’s proposed budget.

A tax increase of any size comes as a surprise to some township residents who say they had been told for years that the township’s 1.71-mill tax rate was at its ceiling under the township’s Home Rule charter and could not go any higher.

Under the proposed $4.2 million budget, the property tax rate would be increased one mill to 2.71 mills.

Township Manager Daniel J. Mator Jr. said the main reason for the increase is to fix township roads.

The township’s spending would increase by a little more than 9 percent over the $3.8 million budget for this year.

Citing minutes from past supervisors meetings and newspaper reports, resident Jack Best said officials have said for years that the township’s property tax rate could not be increased.

The limit was given as a reason for not raising taxes to provide money to local fire departments.

Solicitor Douglas Happel said the township’s 1974 charter sets a maximum millage rate of 12 mills, and that the increase being proposed is being done in accordance with the procedures outlined in the charter.

In 2002, then-Solicitor Mike Yukevich said a half-mill property tax increase that supervisors were considering was probably illegal.

In 2000, Allegheny County reassessed property and reformulated the county’s assessment system. West Deer recalculated its 10-mill tax rate, and township property taxes dropped to 1.45 mills.

According to a Nov. 21, 2002, report in the Valley News Dispatch, Yukevich said: “You can’t with a straight face say you can cap assessment at 12 mills when the county has increased the value of assessment by seven times over.”

The township would have to calculate what a 12-mill cap would be in the current assessment, which he said would be about 1.71 mills. About a month later, supervisors approved a budget for 2003 with the tax rate at 1.71 mills.

Under the township’s Home Rule charter, raising taxes over the cap would require voter approval in a referendum.

Best said he doesn’t think what supervisors are doing is illegal, but it is “unethical.”

“It should go to the voters,” he said.

Happel said the Home Rule charter was never amended. As for what past supervisors and township officials said, Mator said they were simply wrong in believing the township’s property tax was at its upper limit, which is what Mator said he had been told, too.

“It’s not unethical. It’s necessary,” Supervisor Leonard Guerre said. “We have no more reserve. We’re done. We have to do something.”

Resident Joe Semler said people in West Deer would “have a fit” upon seeing a newspaper headline of a 60 percent tax increase. He asked supervisors to consider making it something less.

If they don’t, “your phones are going to ring off the wall,” he said. “You better not be up for election next year.”

Mator praised the supervisors’ decision.

“What these guys showed me is courage in doing it,” Mator said. “They know they are going to take heat for it, but they’re doing what’s right for the community.”

The budget is scheduled to be passed Dec. 15. They next meet on Dec. 1.

Along with the budget, supervisors are expected to vote on abolishing the fire hydrant tax assessment and set the street light tax assessment for 2011.

Mator said the street light fund has enough money to last for possibly two years. Fire hydrant costs would be transferred to the township’s general fund.

Concrete plant hours changed

Supervisors approved a change in the permitted operating hours of a concrete Redi-Mix plant on Gibsonia Road. The plant has been the source of noise complaints and has been cited twice for operating in the middle of the night.

The Wendell H. Stone Co. had asked the township to consider changing its hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Supervisors approved hours recommended by the planning commission: 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, and a start time of 7 a.m. Saturday.

If the company violates the hours, the start time would be set back to 7 a.m.

Additional Information:

About the proposal

Here’s how taxes would change on a house with an average assessed value of $87,650:

Old tax rate: 1.71 mills

New tax rate: 2.71 mills

Old tax bill: $149.88

New tax bill: $237.53

Tax increase: $87.6

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.