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Monroeville Council approved 0.5-mill tax hike

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Monroeville Council approved a $27 million budget Tuesday night after officials eliminated a number of proposed budget items and approved a real-estate tax hike.

Council voted 6-1 in favor of a 0.5-mill property-tax increase, which sets the 2013 tax rate at 2.38 mills. Because of reassessments, the tax hike will require approval from an Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas judge. Officials say they expect a ruling by next month.

Councilman Bernhard Erb voted against the tax increase.

The tax hike will translate into an extra $50 in taxes for a home assessed at $100,000. The total Monroeville tax bill for a $100,000 assessment would be about $240.

Councilwoman Diane Allison proposed the millage increase — which is less than the millage increase originally proposed — in addition to reducing the emergency reserve fund from 10 percent to 7.5 percent of the total budget. It is recommended by financial experts that municipalities maintain an emergency fund between 5 and 15 percent of the total budget.

“I don't think that if anyone is looking at a tax increase, that all the burden should go to the taxpayers,” Allison said.

Council also approved the elimination of the following items from the proposed 2013 budget to reduce expenditures and balance the budget:

• $100,000 for fire suppression

• $78,600 for a municipal planning director

• $69,500 for a marketing/information technology specialist at the library

• $25,000 for engineering costs

• $10,000 for municipal parades in 2013, which will instead be funded by the convention and visitor's bureau

• $2,500 traffic signals

Erb urged council to eliminate the Monroeville dispatch center and shift that service to the county level, which he said provides a duplicate service. He said the move would save the municipality more than $500,000 this year. He defended the suggestion by saying Monroeville dispatchers have assigned emergencies to first responders already treating a patient, therefore delaying their response time, a practice that is prohibited at the county.

“We have stacked and delayed calls by five minutes in the last six months, including at least one cardiac patient,” Erb said.

He said neighboring municipalities where residents rely on a county dispatch center are afforded a better fire insurance rating for homeowners, based on recent reports from the Insurance Service Office.

Council voted 6-2 to keep the dispatch center. Council members Lois Drumheller and Erb voted to eliminate it.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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