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Mt. Lebanon treasurer to board: 'You don't need me'

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Mt. Lebanon doesn't need an elected treasurer to oversee tax collections and sign off on outgoing checks, according to a report due for release this month — and the man recently reappointed to the job agrees.

The Board of Commissioners tasked a committee in 2012 with recommending changes to the Home Rule Charter that has defined Mt. Lebanon's government since 1975. Part of its nine-point report will recommend making the treasurer a position appointed by the municipal manager, possibly as a title conferred upon an employee.

“You don't need a treasurer, honestly,” said Joe Senko, an accountant, shortly before commissioners reappointed him acting treasurer on Monday.

He and former Mellon Bank trader and portfolio manager Jack Goldschmidt sought an appointment to replace John C. Ferguson, who won re-election in November but died in October. Senko had temporarily filled the position.

The treasurer serves the municipality and school district, overseeing real estate and local service tax collections, which were estimated at $12.4 million in the 2014 municipal budget and $55.95 million in the school district's 2013-14 budget. The job includes signing off on outgoing checks for tax refunds and transfers between accounts, and supervising other revenue. Senko said there are no set hours, but the workload picks up considerably in the spring when taxes are due.

“ ‘Treasurer' is just a function to collect and disburse funds; there's no reason that can't be a staff role,” said resident Bill Matthews, a retired human resources director who chaired the Home Rule Study Committee.

He said Mt. Lebanon always has had a treasurer but could save taxpayers money by reforming the job. The municipality puts $9,000 toward the position each year and the school district pays $10,000.

Changing from an elected position could prevent politics from influencing the position, even though the treasurer doesn't influence municipal policy.

“We've had very good treasurers, even before John, but it could adversely affect the community should someone be elected who isn't qualified, or who chooses to make it a truly political office despite not having any policy role,” Matthews said.

Senko said employees in the tax office require minimal supervision, although he acknowledged, “You don't know if you'll always have such qualified employees.”

His job since October largely has involved handling taxpayers' questions and complaints. He would like to chase down long-delinquent taxes by working with the school district and courts.

As a write-in candidate, Goldschmidt received the second-highest number of votes after Ferguson, so Commissioner Dave Brumfield said he'd prefer to nominate him for the position. But the other four commissioners said Senko appeared to have more experience on his resume as treasurer of various nonprofits. Once agreeing to nominate him, the board granted unanimous approval.

In order to change to an appointed treasurer, the commission would have to pass an ordinance defining the job and when the change would take effect. Mt. Lebanon voters would then decide whether to change the charter.

Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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