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Judge: Allegheny County municipalities, Pittsburgh schools may get budget extension

| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 12:20 p.m.

The Allegheny County judge overseeing property reassessments is likely to give municipalities and Pittsburgh Public Schools at least an additional week to set property tax rates and approve budgets for the coming year.

Senior Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick said on Thursday that he could extend into the first week of January the end-of-the-year deadline by which the city school district and all municipalities must set their 2013 budgets. The delay would allow the county to give the taxing bodies more accurate reassessment figures because more appeals will be finalized by then.

“I don't see a problem with that,” Wettick said during a hearing in the Allegheny County Courthouse.

David Montgomery, solicitor for the county's Board of Property Assessments and Review, gave Wettick statistics that show of the 99,683 residential appeals filed in the county, approximately 70,956 — or about 71 percent — are finalized.

Commercial appeal decisions are not as far along. Of the 16,378 appeals, 6,061 — or 37 percent — are finalized.

Montgomery said that by Dec. 20, about 90 percent of residential appeals and about 50 percent of commercial appeals in the county will be final.

Wettick could decide on the delay on Dec. 7.

The county was on the hook to deliver the total property values for each taxing body by Dec. 17. Wettick is considering extending that to at least Dec. 20. Most school districts are on a fiscal-year cycle and don't have to finalize their budgets until summer. The city school district is on a calendar-year cycle, like municipalities. The school board has scheduled a meeting for Dec. 19.

“Obviously, we'd have to call a special legislative meeting,” school board member Jean Fink said.

Some municipal officials said an extension would be helpful.

“If that does happen, we could work with that. We're already working against the clock waiting for the new tax assessments,” said Monroeville Manager Jeff Silka. “If he extends the deadline, that means we wouldn't have to be meeting on New Year's Eve to pass the budget.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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