Economy
11:00 am
Mon November 21, 2011

GOP Opposes Allegheny County Property Tax Hike

A proposal to raise Allegheny County property taxes is taking flak from Republicans on County Council, who argue that there are better ways to balance the budget.

The Council's Democratic majority has proposed a property tax hike from 4.69 mills to 5.69 mills, a 21 percent increase meant to restore last year's budget cuts to the Community College of Allegheny County and human services programs.

For a property assessed at $100,000, the millage hike would add $100 to the tax bill. It would be the first property tax increase in Allegheny County in more than a decade, and would take effect in the same year as new property values from a reassessment ordered by Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick.

Republican Councilman-at-large Ed Kress said that his caucus opposes the tax increase proposal, especially during a year of property reassessment.

"With the new assessments, a house that was assessed once for maybe $100,000, their assessment could go up to maybe $200,000. So, we're not just talking about $100, it could maybe be actually a $200 tax increase," said Kress.

Kress noted there is some debate as to whether it's legal for County Council to raise taxes by a mill at this point.

"Some lawyers are saying that in order to do a tax increase more than 5 percent, you would have to go to Judge Wettick, because it's during an assessment year," said Kress.

The legislator-at-large said that he'd rather pass the budget as proposed by County Executive Dan Onorato, which included no tax increases. Kress said that he'd prefer a tuition increase at CCAC to a property tax hike countywide.

"You hate to cut any programs, but sometimes you have to live within your means, and your budget," said Kress. "Unfortunately, right now we're going to have to make some tough decisions as to what we're going to cut and what we're going to keep."

With or without the tax increase, the budget could be approved as early as the Council's November 22 meeting, but Democratic Councilman William Robinson has said that passage may have to wait until January.

Kress said that Council Members are also considering passing the budget as-is in the short term, then revising it to include a tax increase when the new year comes around.