Monroeville municipal manager fires back over $400K shortfall
By Kyle Lawson
Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
While some officials have pointed fingers, others said it was a lack of communication that resulted in a $400,000 mistake.
Last week, Monroeville tax collector Pat Fulkerson blamed municipal manager Lynette McKinney for a $400,000 shortfall in tax revenue this year. McKinney, who didn't comment on the accusation last week, said this week if anyone is to blame, it's Fulkerson.
Fulkerson said he knew there would be a shortfall in January, after a budget was proposed by former manager Jeff Silka that failed to factor in property-assessment appeals.
On Tuesday, McKinney said that if Fulkerson knew the figures were wrong, he should have notified either her or Silka at some point before the millage was approved by council in March.
“I rely on my tax collector, who receives appeal notifications, to notify me if there is a change,” McKinney said.
Fulkerson said that it's the municipal manager's job to predict changes in tax revenues as a result of assessment appeals.
“It's not my responsibility,” Fulkerson said. “I am here to collect (taxes). And I collect 98 to 99 percent.”
Silka presented the millage to council for a vote in January.
According to a memo sent from Silka to council in December, while he was compiling the budget, the total value of taxable property in Monroeville increased by 18 percent from 2012 to 2013 as a result of the Allegheny County property reassessments.
The memo did not include an estimated loss of tax revenue in anticipation of assessment appeals.
While the assessment figures that Silka received up to that point were accurate, it is common practice for municipal managers to assume that those figures would decrease as property owners appeal their assessments, Monroeville finance director Sue Werksman said.
McKinney said she first learned of a shortfall in tax revenue when Fulkerson informed council at a meeting last month.
McKinney and Fulkerson confirmed they haven't spoken to each other since January. They both work in the municipal building.
“There is nothing that (Fulkerson) ever indicated that we were going to be $400,000 short,” McKinney said.
Fulkerson said he stopped attending staff meetings in January based on a grievance he had with the municipal officials regarding his contract with the municipality.
Monroeville solicitor Bruce Dice provided administrators and council with activity reports in January and February regarding the municipal officials' request to raise the tax rate beyond what was allowed by law in an assessment year.
Neither report mentioned that there might be a miscalculation of tax revenue in 2013.
Dice could not be reached for comment.
Fulkerson said Tuesday that although Silka's budget did not factor the appeals, McKinney could have adjusted the millage when she took over Jan. 31.
McKinney disagreed. She said that once the requested millage rate was sent off to the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas on Jan. 24, it could not have been changed.
Attorney Craig Alexander — who is an associate in Dice's office — said this week that although the requested millage increase was sent to the court Jan. 24, municipal officials probably could have asked to adjust the millage rate prior to the judge approving it on Feb. 20.
To make up the $400,000 deficit, council likely would have to either increase property taxes in 2014 or reduce municipal services, officials said. Services paid for by the municipality include the dispatch center, library and senior center.
Council increased the property-tax rate from 1.8 mills in 2012 — adjusted to reflect the current reassessment values — to 2.43 mills this year and reduced the fund balance from 10 percent of the $27 million budget to 7.5 percent.
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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