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E. McKeesport tax collector details issues

| Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

East McKeesport has collected $459,796.08 in real estate tax, or about 80 percent of what it expected, borough tax collector Robert Ferrainolo told council.

“Borough taxes are now in the penalty phase,” Ferrainolo said at Thursday's council meeting. “Seventy-seven percent of taxpayers have paid already.”

That's $20,000 to $25,000 or 9 percent over last year, Ferrainolo said, but he's not expecting to get all $81,898.27 still outstanding.

“Eleven percent of houses we can't collect,” the tax collector said. Reasons vary, but in some cases properties date back more than 100 years and listed owners have no living descendants or ties.

“You can still appeal your taxes,” Ferrainolo said to those who haven't paid their taxes. “(Allegheny County Senior Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr.) is hearing appeals on Fridays.”

Regardless of how the judge rules, “people still have to pay their taxes on time,” Ferrainolo said.

The tax collector has other problems. There's a homestead exemption that essentially takes $235 off a tax bill — and is supposed to be limited to those who live in homes they own.

He has a list of 28 properties that shouldn't be on the homestead list, including two owned by rental management companies, eight which are vacant and seven where homeowners are deceased.

Another homeowner was taken off the homestead list — after it was found he was claiming the exemption in East McKeesport and in Swissvale.

Allegheny County no longer will print tax bills for the borough after this year.

“They're trying to get us to deal with Jordan Tax Service,” Ferrainolo said. “You don't necessarily want to be locked in to one company.”

Also Thursday, borough engineer Susan Glenn said the borough will have to advertise for a new garbage contract next month.

“You must address e-waste,” she said, referring to electronic devices and appliances that cannot be recycled by normal means under new state law.

In September, the borough will consider four more properties for demolition under Year 40 Community Development Block Grant funding.

A hearing on those demolitions is set for Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m.

Council vice president Peter McGinty said he is trying to get a meeting between Town Center Associates and borough businessmen in September at the borough's senior citizen center to discuss the Allegheny Together program.

The borough bade farewell to its summer intern Elizabeth Kozub, whose work researching vacant properties was discussed at a recent meeting of the East Allegheny school board.

“We had a fabulous intern this year,” council president Kathleen Lipesky said. Other members of council agreed, with Councilman Ross Cianflone suggesting a $300 bonus for her, an idea that was taken under consideration.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.