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West Allegheny School District scraps landfill tax over legal questions

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By Megan Henney
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 10:30 p.m.
 

West Allegheny School District no longer intends to adopt a $3-a-ton tax on the use of landfills because of concerns about whether it would be legal.

The school district ran a legal ad in the Tribune-Review in June announcing its intent to authorize a tax “on the transaction of depositing waste at and usage of landfills” within the district.

Edward Faux, vice president of the school board, said district solicitor Bill Andrews explained the board did not have the legal authority to tax landfills.

West Allegheny originally decided to tax landfill usage when it learned Elizabeth Forward School District had a similar tax, he said.

“We thought we should pass a similar resolution if (Elizabeth Forward) thought they knew something we didn't,” Faux said.

The Elizabeth Forward school board voted 5-3 to adopt the resolution on April 23. In May, the board chose to balance the district's 2014-15 budget without it.

Since then, some have voiced concerns about the legality of the resolution.

Waste Management has asked the board to repeal its resolution, which would require the Kelly Run Landfill to pay an increased tax to the board, said spokeswoman Erika Deyarmin.

“We are trying to come to an agreement about it,” she said. Deyarmin declined to comment further about Waste Management's discussion with the school board.

Patricia McGrail, solicitor for the district, said officials hope to discuss the resolution with the Kelly Run Landfill to determine the amount of business it transacts.

Pennsylvania's Act 101 of 1988 regulates solid waste management and recycling statewide, said Mark Pedersen, president of the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association, an organization representing landfill operators.

The act preempts the Pennsylvania Local Tax Enabling Act, which Pedersen said Elizabeth Forward reportedly used as authority for the tax increase.

“Thus, the action taken by them was not a legal action, and I believe they are looking into this situation,” he said.

A similar sentiment is echoed in a state Department of Community and Economic Development taxation manual.

“(Act 101) preempts and supersedes any tax on landfills or resource recovery facilities above the rate in effect on Dec. 31, 1987,” the manual says. “No new landfill privilege taxes may be enacted.”

Some members of the association are in contact with the district about the tax. Pedersen declined to provide their names.

Megan Henney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7987 or mhenney@tribweb.com.

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