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Cheswick would forgive some back taxes

| Saturday, July 19, 2014, 1:01 a.m.

Cheswick is proposing to give up some of the back taxes owed on six vacant properties to hasten their return to tax-paying status.

The Allegheny Valley School District, which collects far more in property taxes than the borough does, has yet to sign on to the plan.

The problem, according to borough officials, is that the overdue tax bills for the parcels are so much higher than their value that no one would be willing to pay what is owed to acquire them at a sheriff's sale.

Owners of the properties are deceased, unreachable or unknown. Tax bills are returned as undeliverable, borough Secretary Andy Bock said.

No buildings stand on the properties, which are on Freeport Road, Linden Street, Murrayhill Avenue, Fairmont Street and Beech Street. The properties are zoned residential except for Freeport Road, which is zoned commercial.

Borough and school district taxes due on the lots total almost $86,000, according to the borough. The taxes on two of the parcels have not been paid since 1965.

Two of the properties, on Linden Street and Fairmont Street, have borough and school tax bills of more than $27,000 each.

More than $36,000 is owed on the property at Linden Street when the $8,500 cost of chemical removal is included. A photography lab was found in the basement of the dilapidated house that was demolished in 2002, Bock said.

The Linden Street property illustrates the problem — its assessed value is only $700, according to Allegheny County.

While three of the parcels have assessed values in excess of their tax debts, Bock said that was because of the last property reassessment, which increased the values.

Cheswick Council President Paul Jack said it will cost about $5,000 to put each of the properties up for sheriff's sale. Officials would want a sale to cover that cost, at least, he said.

Schools Superintendent Cheryl Griffith said the borough approached the district with the idea. The school board has yet to discuss it and would have to approve, she said.

Because Allegheny Valley includes Springdale, Springdale Township and Harmar, Griffith said the district can't do something in Cheswick it would not do in any of the other municipalities.

“We're very open to hearing the complete presentation from them and then putting all that information into perspective with our district before we have the topic move forward at the board level,” she said.

Two or three of the properties are suitable for building; the others could be, if consolidated with neighboring parcels, Bock said.

Bock said there is at least one buyer interested in each of the properties.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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