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Taxes on way down in Leet

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 9:47 p.m.

Leet commissioners plan to lower the municipality's property tax rate this month amid complaints that they failed to compensate for higher property values under the Allegheny County reassessment, the township's solicitor said.

Under state law, officials must reduce millages to not reap a “windfall” of extra tax money after a reassessment. Municipalities around Allegheny County cut their rates for that reason.

“My understanding is that the township is going to be amending its tax rate ordinance,” solicitor Richard Start said.

The 2013 tax rate is 7 mills, tax bills mailed this week showed. That's the same tax rate the township of about 1,600 people used last year.

But the assessed value of property in Leet increased about 39 percent — from $92 million in 2012 to about $128 million in 2013, according to Allegheny County data — so the rate must be lower to keep bills about the same. Some residents complained after receiving bills that jumped hundreds of dollars.

John Mook said he was surprised to see an increase in his bill.

“My county taxes went down,” he said. “They missed the ball in Leet.”

Township officials did not make clear on Thursday how many Leet residents paid their tax bills or whether residents are being turned away from paying bills. Leet Manager Anna Lee Oswald did not return requests for comment.

In nearby Leetsdale, elected officials next week could change the tax rate again. It was 10 mills in 2012, Leetsdale Council President Joe McGurk said.

Council approved a 7.5-mill property tax rate last month, but McGurk said with 56 assessment appeals pending, the “potential decrease in revenue is mind-boggling” for the community of about 1,200 residents. Council could reset the rate to 8 mills.

“This has been a nightmare for me,” he said. McGurk said he expects tax bills to go out later this month.

Start said Leet officials planned to open an escrow account for the surplus.

When asked if he or township commissioners thought they made a mistake by keeping the tax rate the same, Start said: “I don't know that there was an error. When the numbers came out and (residents) looked at them, we thought we would reconsider.”

He said commissioners could lower the tax rate to 5.5 mills. “We can reduce it and still have enough money to fund the budget,” Start said.

Commissioners on Monday are expected to announce they will meet the week of March 18 to consider lowering the millage, Start said.

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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