Heidelberg Council approves budget without a set tax rate

Doug Gulasy
| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

Heidelberg Borough joined a growing list of Allegheny County municipalities to pass its 2013 budget without a set tax rate.

Council passed the budget by a 3-1 vote at its meeting Dec. 18. The budget calls for more than $1.3 million combined between the general, sewer, liquid fuels and property funds.

However, council is awaiting the Allegheny County reassessment numbers in order to set a millage for 2013. The rate was 8.5 in 2012, though Mayor Kenneth LaSota said that number could drop by 25 to 30 percent with the expected rise in property values.

Along with the budget passing, council authorized a 5 percent increase in real estate tax collections by a 3-1 vote. State law allows municipalities to collect no more than 105 percent of its previous year's real estate tax collections.

Borough council proposes using the extra 5 percent of real estate tax collections as a contingency fund for real estate tax refunds if needed.

“With the appeals on the assessments and any of the reductions, you may not get answers on those things for two years while they work through the board of viewers,” solicitor Michael Kaleugher said.

Councilman Bob DeBar cast the lone dissenting vote against the 5 percent increase, saying he thought it could constitute a “secret tax.”

“What happens to that 5 percent if it's not needed, or once it's done being needed for the sole purpose of tax refunds?” asked DeBar, who also cast the dissenting vote against the budget passage. “Does it roll back into the budget?”

Kaleaugher said the borough was protecting against the uncertainty of the appeals process with the increase.

“If and when stability exists in the stream of property of revenue going forward, you can readjust the millage to anything you want it to be, (and) you can readjust the line item in the budget to whatever you want it to be,” LaSota said. “But with the uncertainty that's going to be in place for 2013, council in its wisdom is just putting in the budget the potentiality that there might be 5 percent more.”

Council will vote on the millage rate at its January meeting.

Planning commission vacancy

Heidelberg is seeking applicants for a vacant position on the planning commission.

Commission members make recommendations on future land development, zoning changes and ordinances in relation to high-impact projects in the borough. They also recommend capital improvement programs.

Mayor Kenneth LaSota filled one of the two vacancies, a two-year term. The borough is seeking applicants for a three-year term.

Applicants must send a letter of interest and resume to borough Manager Joe Kauer by Feb. 1, 2013. The position is voluntary and unpaid, and applicants must be Heidelberg residents.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or dgulasy@tribweb.com.

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