Monessen Mayor Smith blasts school directors over taxes
Monessen Mayor Mary Jo Smith lashed out at school board members Monday, claiming five of the directors do not pay city taxes or garbage fees.
“What's insulting to the residents of this city is that we have people on that school board raising taxes that do not pay their own taxes,” said Smith, who declined to identify the directors.
The mayor's comments came in the wake of the Monessen City school board's rejection last week of a request for tax forgiveness on three vacant properties.
On Aug. 13, city Solicitor Mark Shire made a presentation to the school board, asking that school property taxes be exonerated for three properties.
In a 4-3 vote, the board denied city council's request for a vacant lot at 255 Schoonmaker Ave., a vacant, dilapidated house at 18 Elm St., and the old Health Mart building at 500 Donner Ave.
Board members Kimberly Egidi, Cheryl Galilei and Cindy Pawelec voted to exonerate the taxes. Donna Fantuzzi, Maria Scuteri, Lee Johnson and Amy Bukowski voted no. Board members Sharon Mauck and Brett Lepresti were absent.
During its work session Monday night, council discussed the future for the sites.
Councilman William Manus said Miller Commercial purchased the Donner Avenue property with designs on creating a hotel and restaurant. No taxes have paid on that property since 2004.
The Schoonmaker Avenue site was originally eyed by Ebony Development. It is now in the hands of the Westmoreland County Redevelopment Authority.
Shire said the city will seek a free and clear sale for the Donner Avenue property, provided the Westmoreland County Tax Bureau Office supports that move. That would make the property available for sale, likely eventually leading it to be placed again on the tax rolls.
The property would be open for bids. The title is currently held by the county tax claim bureau after Miller Commercial forfeited it, Shire said.
Shire said Monessen previously exonerated city taxes on the Schoonmaker Avenue site. He said sale of the property is “at a standstill” because the school district declined to take the same action.
He said council voted earlier this summer to take title of the Elm Street property. The structure on it is scheduled for demolition this year. The city will then place a lien on the property for the taxes.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.