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Erroneous tax bills irk Munhall residents

| Friday, April 19, 2013, 5:03 p.m.

A billing mix-up resulted in hundreds of Munhall residents receiving delinquency notices even though they had paid their 2012 real estate taxes.

Becky Olson, one of the affected residents, complained to borough council on Wednesday.

“Who is not doing their job?” she asked.

“To be honest with you, we don't know,” council president Joe Ballas said.

“At this point, I don't think we're looking to point any fingers at the tax collector or Legal Tax Service,” council vice president Rob Falce said.

Councilman Dan Lloyd said Legal Tax Service sent 1,207 notices to residents based on the Munhall tax collector's office's exoneration report.

“The letter said their property taxes weren't paid and that they would be liened if they were not paid by a certain date,” Lloyd said. “Of 1,207 notices, 416 residents to date have proven to Legal Tax Service that they indeed have paid their taxes. The face amount of the taxes for those 416 people who were reported as delinquent was $249,060.44.”

He said penalties totaling $24,906.04 billed to the property owners who were wrongly reported delinquent had to be removed, as well as service fees of $8,320.88.

Ballas said he has been trying to set up a meeting of the borough staff, the tax collector and Legal Tax Service.

“We have to find out what happened,” he said. “We will get to the bottom of it.”

“My biggest concern is how it is affecting the tax flow in the borough,” Councilman Bernie Shields said. “As soon as employees stop getting paid, it's going to get bad.”

Mayor Raymond Bodnar said the borough's cash flow should be a major concern. He said he was upset when borough manager Matt Galla didn't have enough money to pay the monthly bills last week.

Galla said he is holding off on paying $160,000-$180,000 in bills so that the borough can use incoming tax revenue. He said the only other choice is a tax anticipation loan on which the borough would have to pay interest.

Lloyd said 200 envelopes containing checks are at the borough tax office and no deposits are being made.

“The tax bills will be coming in,” Falce said. “They just went out last week. I haven't paid mine yet. I have until May 31 without the penalty. I think most people in the borough are under the same impression.”

After an executive session on Wednesday night, council approved an emergency audit of the borough tax office.

When contacted Thursday, Legal Tax Service general counsel Don Fetzko said the data provided by the tax collector's office “was skewed.”

“Since then, we did get amended data,” he said. “People who paid their taxes will get notices, if they haven't already, saying we're so sorry and that there was a foul-up.”

Munhall tax collector Donna Mercuri didn't return phone calls by presstime.

Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or slee@tribweb.com.

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