Miscalculation costs Monroeville $400K in revenue

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Turmoil in the municipal building has cost Monroeville about $400,000 in revenue, the local tax collector says.

When a new millage was being calculated in February, municipal administrators failed to account for the most recent property assessment appeals, which has resulted in a $400,000 shortfall, Monroeville tax collector Pat Fulkerson said. While the shortfall affects the current budget year, council might have to increase the property-tax rate next year to make up the difference, Fulkerson said.

Council members are weighing their options.

Councilwoman Lois Drumheller suggested outsourcing emergency dispatch services to the county, a switch that has been projected to save the municipality about $600,000. Drumheller and Councilman Bernhard Erb voted in favor of moving the dispatch center in January. They were outvoted 5-2.

When Allegheny County reassessed property values in 2012, some Monroeville property owners appealed their assessments. Those who won their appeals pay less in property taxes to Monroeville. The county's most accurate projection of appeals was available to municipal administrators in January, but administrators never factored the estimate into the new millage rate, Fulkerson said.

Monroeville Mayor Greg Erosenko blamed municipal Manager Lynette McKinney.

“Ultimately it's the manager's responsibility to come up with that number,” said Erosenko, who has pushed to have McKinney removed from the manager's position.

McKinney could not be reached for comment.

She was appointed to the position in March after working as an administrative assistant to the manager for several years and then, as an interim manager for part of 2012. Her predecessor, Jeff Silka, resigned under pressure from council in late January.

Council adopted the tax rate in early March.

Fulkerson said he told officials in early February that the millage would have to be recalculated before it was approved. He said McKinney then sent him an email asking him to recalculate the millage rate. Fulkerson said he refused.

“There's not a tax collector out there that calculates the millage,” he said. “It's not my responsibility to go through (the manager's budget) and through the process to find out what the millage rate is.”

He said a disagreement between himself and McKinney around the time that the millage was being calculated also factored in to his decision.

Fulkerson said he was suspended temporarily in February by McKinney after he made a comment at a January council meeting about a possible conflict of interest involving Monroeville finance director Sue Werksmen.

He said the suspension was based on a section of the employee handbook that addresses employee behavior. But Fulkerson said he never was an employee of Monroeville. He said that he worked as an independent contractor when he collected business and earned income taxes.

Drumheller said that regardless of Fulkerson's personal grievances, he should have done more to correct the millage as the elected property tax collector.

“He could have done something,” Drumheller said.

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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