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Analysts: Monroeville tax-rate increase inevitable

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

While some residents have criticized Monroeville Council for a 2013 property tax hike, financial specialists who have examined Monroeville's economy say the increase is long overdue.

“Hindsight being what it is, perhaps officials should have been thinking about small property tax increases over the last few years as expenses grew,” said Eric Montarti, a senior policy analyst with the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a local think tank.

Council last week approved a tax-rate increase of 0.547 mills after the property values of many homes already increased as a result of the 2012 county-wide property reassessments.

It has been more than 20 years since Monroeville has raised the property tax rate, while expenses outpaced revenue for more than a decade.

Municipal finance director Susan Werksman said the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 will see a $63 increase this year.

Monroeville had one of the lowest property tax rates in the county last year, while providing in-house services that most municipalities don't offer, such as refuse collection and a dispatch center.

Councilman Steve Duncan said recently that the majority of his constituents have supported maintaining municipal services, “if at all possible.”

The new tax rate could have a bilateral effect on the housing market, Monroeville Realtor Dick Reid said.

While some homeowners might choose to sell, that would, in turn, lower housing prices for home buyers, he said.

“I see a positive and a negative,” Reid said. “Higher taxes could encourage more homes for sale.”

Reid said senior citizens on a fixed income could take a hit as a result of the tax increase.

“Just like the rest of the county, we have a pretty high senior population,” he said. “Some of those seniors certainly will be struggling to pay the taxes.”

State law prohibits municipalities from reaping more than a 5-percent increase in revenue this year from the 2012 reassessments. But council received approval from Allegheny County Common Pleas Court to exceed the cap.

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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