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Budgets proposed; tax rates to come

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

Hampton and Richland officials presented their townships' proposed 2013 budgets on Dec. 3, but the tax rate property owners will pay in each township has not yet been determined.

Officials in the townships ultimately may drop their tentative 2013 real estate tax rates after Allegheny County releases its newest property value assessments — expected by January — in the wake of plentiful appeals by property owners who disagreed with the county's original reassessments.

“We will lower our millage rates in January. We just don't know how much,” said Dean Bastianini, manager of Richland Township.

Richland's proposed $12 million budget for 2013 establishes a real estate tax rate of 2.75 mills, the same millage rate levied by the township for 2012. That translates into a $336 yearly tax bill on a median-priced $122,300 home.

Richland's 2013 spending plan reflects an approximately $200,000 increase in expenditures, compared to the township's 2012 budget.

Township officials expect to spend the extra money on expanded road resurfacing projects and new equipment, including a dump truck, for its public works department.

Hampton's proposed $13 million budget for 2013 sets a 2.4 millage rate, reflecting a 4.1 percent drop from the township's 2.5 millage rate for 2012.

That translates into a $393 yearly tax bill on a median-priced $163,000 home.

Hampton's 2013 spending plan reflects an approximately $87,000 increase in expenditures, compared to the township's final, projected 2012 expenses.

The 2013 budget allocates $200,000 in stated-mandated pension contributions and $80,000 in increased premiums for workers compensation, among its more “unusual” anticipated expenses, according to Victor Son, president of Hampton Council.

“Our philosophy is to match revenue to expenses every year with zero-based budgeting and then set the (real estate tax) rate accordingly,” said Son.

“After the certified, final assessed (property) values — after tax appeals — are determined and published by the county — hopefully before May, when we issue tax bills — we will recapitulate the impact on revenue,” Son said.

“If we can lower our millage rate, due to higher (property) values than assumed, we would plan to do so,” said Son.

Hampton Manager Chris Lochner compared the challenge of mapping the township's 2013 budget and real estate tax rate to picking up a pin in a pitch-black room.

The total value of Hampton Township residential and commercial properties increased from $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion — about 31 percent — when Allegheny County released its new assessments on properties values in April.

By law, however, municipalities may not collect more than 5 percent in additional revenue generated by increased taxes on assessed property values taxes.

“We don't know what our overall assessed value is,” Lochner said. “Our problem is that we're trying to hit a moving target.”

As in Hampton and Richland, Pine Township officials also might adjust the tentative real estate tax rate for 2013.

Pine's approximately $12 million budget for 2013 currently features the lowest real estate tax rate in Allegheny County — 1.2 mills — which translates into a $274 yearly real estate tax bill on a house with a median value of $228,950.

“Pine will wait until the assessments are released in January to analyze the values,” said Cheryl Fischer, manager of Pine Township.

“Any rate change will be made prior to sending out bills for April 1.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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