Springdale Council prepared to override mayor's veto of 44% tax increase
By Brian C. Rittmeyer
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Ken Lloyd cast his first veto as Springdale mayor Tuesday against the borough's 44 percent property tax increase, but it likely won't stand for long.
Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the borough's amended $2.1 million spending plan and to increase the borough's tax rate from 4.5 mills to 6.5 mills.
Councilman John Molnar and Lloyd participated in the mid-afternoon meeting by telephone.
Lloyd said during the meeting that he would veto all resolutions dealing with raising taxes. He also was displeased with council's cutting funding for the police department, including $60,000 for hiring a full-time officer.
Lloyd said he hoped council would support his veto, but members moved immediately to override it. They were not able to do so, after Solicitor Craig Alexander said that the state's borough code requires council to wait 10 days.
With an override appearing obvious, and to avoid the cost of advertising a meeting, Councilman Jason Fry asked Lloyd if he would withdraw his veto.
Lloyd replied, “Absolutely not.”
Council scheduled a special meeting for Feb. 14 to vote on the override.
Council reopened the borough's budget in January after approving a $2.4 million plan in December that called for spending about $637,000 more than the borough's projected income.
Work on the amended budget must be done by Feb. 15, under the borough code.
Borough Manager Kim McAfoose, who was hired in December, called 2014 a “rebuilding year” for the borough. Cuts were made across all departments, and the borough's budget has been revised to ensure spending is properly categorized, she said.
“We've cut the budget tremendously in every department so we can make this work,” she said. “There's not one department targeted.”
Council previously increased the quarterly garbage collection rate by 50 percent, from $36 to $54.
McAfoose said costs of collecting garbage payments were not being charged against the correct account. She said that resulted in the rate being artificially low, with the borough effectively subsidizing trash collection.
The budget calls for no new major equipment for the police or street departments. Spending for legal services was cut by half, to $50,000.
Spending for alley maintenance was lowered from $35,000 to $15,000. Marina operating expenses were cut by $20,000 to $1,800.
Spending for street department salaries was lowered by about $56,000, to about $120,000, because of the retirement of an employee, council President David Finley said.
But Mayor Lloyd said cuts to the police department will interfere with his work and that of new police Chief Julio Medeiros to rebuild the department, which recently has been rocked by repeated scandals involving improper personal and professional conduct by police officers.
The new hire would have filled a vacancy, the mayor said.
“I just don't understand how we can redo our police department, and give the mayor the tools he needs to do so, and tell him, ‘We have no money to do it,' ” Lloyd said.
Medeiros said he had no input in his department's budget and was not asked to prepare one. He said he had not seen the budget that council approved.
When an ‘adjustment' is a tax hike
Council cast the tax hike as a readjustment rather than an increase, noting that the borough's tax rate had been 6.5 mills before Allegheny County's property reassessment. The borough's tax rate was lowered to 4.5 mills for 2013 to avoid an illegal “windfall,” Finley said.
“All we did was put it back where it was,” Finley said.
Assessment appeals, most notably by industrial properties, have cut into the borough's revenue, Finley said.
“We got slaughtered with these reassessment appeals,” he said.
While the 2014 tax rate may be the same as it was in 2012, homeowners will pay more in property taxes to the borough if their property has a higher assessment.
And overall, the tax rate will bring in more money to the borough this year than it did in 2012.
According to Allegheny County, the reassessment increased Springdale's total assessed value by about 37 percent, from $154.2 million in 2012 to $210.5 million in 2013.
Appeals have contributed to lowering the borough's assessed value by about 7 percent, to $196.5 million for 2014, according to the county.
But that's still 27 percent higher than the borough's total assessed value in 2012.
According to the borough's budget, the borough is expecting to collect about $915,000 in current property taxes this year, a 25 percent increase from the $730,000 collected in 2013.
The median value of Springdale residential properties with homes increased by 22 percent, from $68,600 in 2012 to $84,000 in 2013, according to the county.
At 6.5 mills, the owner of a home at the median value will pay $546 in 2014 — about $100 more than at the same rate in 2012.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or email@example.com.
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