Plum property tax goes up

| Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003

Plum property owners will pay 1.28 mills more in taxes next year, the first hike the borough has passed in a dozen years.

Plum council approved 5-2 Monday night a $9.6-million spending plan. The higher millage swells the annual bill on an average home by $137. Councilmen Dave Vento and Steve Taylor dissented.

Vento and Taylor both blamed Mayor John Schmeck for lost revenue, saying his veto of a $31 million townhouse development off Route 909 cost the borough and school district hundreds of thousands of dollars. Council failed to override the veto.

Schmeck said the proposed 184-unit Chambord Estates would damage the "residential integrity" of the Route 909 corridor.

"We let that revenue get through our fingers," Taylor said. "We are not doing our job. So I cannot ask the people of the community to pay more taxes."

Vento said the lost revenue totaled $1.6 million, including $736,000 in one-time water and sewer tap-in fees and another $549,240 in annual school taxes. Lost borough tax money amounted to $91,080, Vento said.

One mill generates $1.1 million in Plum. Next year's budget bumps taxes up from 2.02 to 3.3 mills. The tax bill on an average home, assessed at about $108,000, will increase to $356.

The budget includes a $50,000 allotment for police overtime. That's a 43 percent increase over this year, when $35,000 was budgeted and actual costs soared to about $140,000. The borough also budgeted $41,000 for court time next year.

"The police overtime and the court time proposed next year is astronomical," said resident Mary Louise Anderson, a former Plum School Board member.

Schmeck said police overtime is a "challenge we are all concerned about."

Schmeck said the borough will get back some of the money spent on overtime this year for officers who participated in the Allegheny County District Attorney Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Schmeck also said next year's police contract takes away "abuse of comp time." Under the current contract, officers have been able to use compensatory time whenever they want, even if it means someone else works overtime, Schmeck said.

Police Chief Robert Payne also is reviewing court time to try to trim that expense, Schmeck said.

"I assure you we are headed in the right direction," Schmeck said.

Tax hikes are nothing new in Plum. The Plum School Board has hiked property taxes each of the last two years.

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