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Allegheny County Council votes to maintain tax break

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 11:19 p.m.

Allegheny County Council rejected a proposal to slash in half a tax break on new homes.

Council voted 8-7 to renew Act 202, which allows homeowners who buy newly constructed homes to not pay county taxes for two years. The tax break cost the county $2.1 million in 2013.

“Our taxes are high enough, and this levels the playing field,” said Councilwoman Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, who proposed an amendment Tuesday to maintain the 100 percent tax incentive.

Also voting to renew the tax abatement were Republicans Tom Baker of Ross, Heather Heidelbaugh of Mt. Lebanon, Ed Kress of Shaler, and Jan Rea of McCandless, and Democrats Barbara Daly Danko of Regent Square, Amanda Green Hawkins of Stanton Heights, and Bill Robinson of the Hill District.

Means and several members of council said they received letters and phone calls from homebuyers, contractors, developers and others in the building trade concerned that requiring new homebuyers to pay 50 percent of their county tax bill for the first two years would hurt construction.

Jeff Martin, a partner at Valencia developer Richardland Holdings and a member of the Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh, said the county risks losing potential new construction to surrounding counties.

“It's a big problem that we have when we sit down with clients that they say we can go two miles up the road and have lower taxes,” Martin told council.

Allegheny County has had the two-year, 100 percent abatement since 1996. Councilman Michael Finnerty, D-Scott, proposed an amendment at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 22 to cut the abatement in half. The change would increase county revenue by about $1 million annually, he said.

People would not leave the county over the loss of a few hundred dollars in tax abatements, Finnerty said.

Council unanimously voted to increase the tax exemption on home renovations from $36,009 to $66,000. Finnerty hopes the increase will encourage more people to take advantage of the abatement. In 2013, only 11 homeowners used the tax break, costing the county $1,011.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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