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Monroeville

Monroeville Mall just won a $27M tax break

Dillon Carr
| Thursday, May 10, 2018, 12:42 p.m.
The parking lot outside at Monroeville Mall.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
The parking lot outside at Monroeville Mall.

Owners of the Monroeville Mall will receive a $27 million property tax break next year and refunds from the school district, the municipality and the county topping nearly $2 million.

A special Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas master recently ruled the mall's $105 million property tax assessment has been too high for the last three years. It was lowered to $78 million.

The decision came after the mall's owner, CBL Properties, and the school district reached a settlement. The mall first appealed to the county in October 2015, according to court records. The school district and Monroeville became interested parties days after the appeal was filed.

The three taxing entities must refund CBL for tax years 2015 through 2017.

Monroeville owes the owners about $324,000, and the county will owe about $380,000.

The school district was hit the hardest. Gateway School District officials said the district will pay CBL a one-time $1 million refund out of its fund balance and lose out on $509,000 in revenue each year moving forward.

The district is working on finalizing its 2018-19 budget. The administration has proposed raising property taxes and dipping into the fund balance to fill a $1.9 million shortfall.

“Unfortunately, this is loss of revenue moving forward. We have no idea if there's going to be additional decreases in value (through appeals),” said Paul Schott, Gateway's business manager.

The district raked in more than $2 million in rebates from the mall when it was assessed at $105 million.

“It's a significant parcel — there's no doubt about it,” he said.

The municipality owes CBL about $324,000 and will lose out on $108,000 moving forward, said Monroeville's tax collector, Pat Fulkerson.

“That's not a drop in the bucket by any means,” Fulkerson said, referring to the loss in revenue. “But $108,000 ... when Westinghouse left, they were assessed I think at $48 million, and now it's down to $12 million. It's not like when they left.”

Fulkerson said he is hopeful the new assessment will bring more business to the mall because the owner's costs will drop.

“Their overhead was too high. So I thought it was a plus for everybody. I don't want (the mall) to be a ghost town,” he said.

There were about 20 vacancies out of 150 storefronts at the 1.1 million-square-foot mall at the end of 2017, CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating said.

Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CBL Monroeville Partner LP bought the property, which is split into two parcels, for $20 million in 2009, according to county real estate records.

Keating declined to offer specifics but said the mall's first-quarter sales doubled this year compared with the same time period in 2017.

Sharon DiPaolo, an attorney at Blawnox-based Siegel Jennings Co., represented CBL. Bruce Dice of Plum-based Bruce E. Dice and associates represented the school district. Neither attorney responded to requests for comment.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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