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Council likely to lower taxes despite updgrades suggestion

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

Export officials expect to pass a 2013 budget this month that would lower property taxes throughout the borough, but one council member said he has reservations about the idea.

Council Vice President Dave Pascuzzi said the surplus money could be needed for other projects, including making the borough more handicap accessible.

“I'm not in agreement with the reduction to our budget,” Pascuzzi said. “Especially when we could use the money for our infrastructure.”

Earlier this month, borough secretary Tonia Waryas unveiled a preliminary budget that calls for a 2-mill reduction in the property tax rate to 14 mills. The proposal would lower taxes for a home assessed at $25,000 — the average assessed value in Export — by about $50.

Mayor Michael Calder, who developed the budget with Waryas, said the decrease in tax rate is a testament to the work of council and other officials. Council enacted a 1.4-mill property tax rate increase in the 2011 budget to help pay past-due engineering bills and the borough's financial responsibility to the Turtle Creek flood-control project.

Finances are much better now for the borough, Calder said. Council approved paying the final engineering bill last week, and the flood-control project was completed in October. Also, a property bequeathed to the borough by businessman Joseph “Junior” Hall is generating $2,000 in rent per month.

“The message is clear,” Calder said. “Right now, things are good financially in Export. I can't say what will happen next year.”

While things are good financially, Pascuzzi said not everything is running as it should in the borough. He said he has submitted several “work orders” to the public works department during the past few months regarding large pot holes and sidewalks in poor conditions.

Pascuzzi uses a wheelchair to navigate the borough after he had his right foot amputated this summer from complications with diabetes. He said maneuvering through the borough is difficult, given the condition of sidewalks.

“I can't drive, and when I get out in my wheelchair on our roads, it's bad,” Pascuzzi said. “It's not a good thing when you can't go past telephone poles in a wheelchair.”

He suggested using the extra money to make the borough's sidewalks handicap accessible. Council also is working to make the borough building handicap accessible. Currently, borough meetings are held in the firefighter's social hall along Lincoln Avenue.

A plan to build a ramp in the building would have cost about $40,000, but that plan was nixed in August because of the length of the ramp. Pascuzzi has contacted other companies to receive an estimate to install a lift to reach the second floor of the building, where council chambers are located.

Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, communities were required to review all municipal facilities in 1992 with an eye toward making public building accessible to people with disabilities. The changers weren't required, but alternatives — such as moving public meetings from a second-story room to ground-level space to accommodate those who have difficulty with stairs — are required when a building or program is inaccessible.

Pascuzzi said he will vote to pass the budget, but he said he wishes other options had been considered.

“Instead of depleting our budget, we could have had these areas fixed,” Pascuzzi said. “Then our borough could be fully accessible to people with disabilities and who use a wheelchair.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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