Leechburg eliminates per capita, occupation taxes
Two nuisance taxes soon may be gone in Leechburg, but their ghosts could end up pestering property owners.
Council voted, 5-1, on Monday to eliminate the per capita and occupation taxes — $10 each — beginning next year.
Council President Tony Defilippi voted no. Councilman Shawn Lerch was absent.
Defilippi said he does not oppose eliminating the taxes, but wanted to first explore alternatives for replacing the money generated by the taxes.
Councilman Tom Foster said council needed to make the decision now before work on collecting the taxes begins. Council's finance committee will explore how to replace the lost revenue.
Foster said that after factoring in the costs of collecting the taxes, Leechburg gets about $15,000 from the per capita and occupation taxes. One mill of property taxes generates about $24,000.
Council discussed shifting the lost tax revenue to the property tax. The current real estate tax is 15.3214 mills.
If that happens, Foster said the borough should put a note in with tax bills, explaining it's a tax shift and not an increase.
Many communities have eliminated the taxes because they have proven difficult to collect, creating unfairness, Foster said.
Council noted that its "rooted" property owners, who are known to borough officials, most consistently pay the two taxes anyway, but transient renters often go unnoticed.
"They're paying it one way or the other," Foster said. "It's our property owners paying it."
Depending how the borough's budget comes together, Foster said its possible no property tax increase would be needed.
Solicitor Jim Favero said council will have to pass an ordinance to eliminate the taxes. Council did not authorize having such an ordinance prepared.
SEWAGE BILLS COULD RISE $7
• In a worst-case scenario, the minimum sewage bill would increase by about $7 per month to pay for separating the remainder of the borough's combined sanitary and stormwater sewage system.
Gordon Taylor, president of Senate Engineering, said his projections were based on Leechburg needing to borrow $8.8 million for the project.
His figures were based on the minimum sewage charge for the use of 3,000 gallons of water per month.
An increase in the borough's fee of about $11 to about $28 would be partially offset by a decrease in the fee charged by the Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority from about $27 to about $17.
The total cost would increase about $7 per month, from $38 to $45, Taylor said.
The system serving about a third of the borough's buildings already have been separated.
The project being considered would separate the system serving the remaining two-thirds.
The borough is seeking funding from PennVEST, which can award loans that would have to be repaid and grants that would not.
Spiering back on council
• Jim Spiering took part in his first full council meeting since rejoining council last month.
Spiering was appointed last month to complete the unexpired term held by Councilman Keith Knepshield.
Knepshield, 65, died Feb. 22 in Armstrong County Memorial Hospital. He had been a councilman since June 2009, having most recently been re-elected in November.
Spiering is a former councilman who lost re-election in November.