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Clairton millage reduced, tax bills could go up

Michael DiVittorio
| Thursday, May 23, 2013, 2:26 a.m.

Clairton City School District residents are expected to see a reduction in their real estate tax rates, but may pay a higher bill because of Allegheny County reassessments.

School directors unanimously approved a preliminary budget at Wednesday night's meeting with a millage rate of 75.4 mills for land and 7.5 mills for buildings. It reflects reductions of 4.6 mills for land from the current 80-mill rate, and no change for buildings.

Proposed revenue is listed at $14,296,146 with expenses at $14,490,407, leaving a $194,261 shortfall. The district is filling the financial hole with money from its $526,001 fund balance.

District business manager Chuck Lanna said residents should focus on their property assessments and not just the millage rate when it comes to factoring their tax bills.

“The single biggest factor as to whether it's going to be higher or lower is not the millage rate, it's going to be the assessed value,” Lanna said. “If someone's assessed value went up by more than 25 percent, and a lot of people's did, their total tax bill is going to go up. If their assessed value went up by less than 25 percent, chances are it is going to go down ... If someone gets an 80 percent increase in their assessed value, no matter what you do with millage rates, their taxes are going to go up because their assessed value went up so much.”

Lanna said the total assessed value of the district's 5,000-plus taxable properties went up by roughly 23 percent.

Lanna said the district hopes to get updated figures from the county prior to the budget's scheduled final adoption on June 25.

He anticipates a slight reduction in millage for buildings, and setting 77 mills for land at that time.

School board president Richard Livingston said the district may need to look into reopening the budget or seek some form of relief through Allegheny County courts should the county figures and millage rates prove troublesome.

“I don't want to pass a budget that we're requiring a millage rate, and that millage rate is not going to cover the bills we have,” Livingston said.

Lanna said there are “strict limitations” on reopening a budget.

One significant assessment decrease currently being appealed is that of U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works plant.

Livingston said its assessment dropped from $14.5 million to $2.5 million, changing the payment to the district from $360,000 to $20,000.

The district hired Ira Weiss earlier this year as special counsel for the appeal, and to perform an appraisal of the U.S. Steel property.

Tax bills will be sent out the first week of July.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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