TribLIVE

| News

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Jeannette man questions city's '03 tax hike

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

Westmoreland Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Richard Gazarik
Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A Jeannette property owner has asked a Westmoreland County judge to order the city to credit or return to property owners nearly a decade's worth of real estate taxes, arguing a 5-mill tax increase approved in 2003 was only for that year, according to a court document.

Thomas E. Burk Jr., 27, of North Huntingdon filed the request on Wednesday, claiming the city has continued to levy the additional tax every year since then without legal justification.

“The city of Jeannette has excessively taxed its real property owners since 2002 and beyond, and excess funds should be credited or returned to property owners,” said attorney Lawrence Burns, who represents Burk.

The filing, which asks for reimbursement or credit of as much as $3 million, adds to the city's growing financial burdens. Jeannette ended 2012 with a $250,000 budget deficit, and officials must decide whether to file municipal bankruptcy or enter a state program for financially troubled municipalities.

Council has to find a way to generate additional revenue to make a $350,000 pension payment and interest due last year for its police officers and a court-imposed settlement of nearly $77,000 and more than $158,000 in legal fees to Jeannette businessman Frank Trigona and his attorney.

City attorney Scott Avolio said he has not read Wednesday's filing, “but the city believes it acted pursuant to authority given from 2003 to the current date.”

In 2003, the city asked a judge for permission to increase real estate taxes 5 mills beyond the mandated limit for Third Class Cities because Jeannette was facing a budget deficit of more than $510,000.

Gary Falatovich, city attorney at the time, argued the millage rate did not generate enough revenue for the city to pay its bills. The city's millage rate is 32.62, and a mill generates $63,000.

“... There is no record of any Court of Common Pleas approval ever sought by the municipality” for the increase, Burns wrote in the court filing.

“There does not appear to be a record of any other petition by the city of Jeannette for approval of its general purpose millage rates that exceeded 25 mills,” Burns said.

He said if the city wanted to continue imposing the additional taxes, it should have sought court approval each year.

Burns also asked the courts to require the city to submit future budgets for court approval.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 724-830-6292or rgazarik@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Westmoreland

  1. Hempfield man serving life without parole for killing wife tells judge he’ll pay restitution when he’s released
  2. Extremes in weather hurt crops in Westmoreland
  3. Sutersville ready to sell former church
  4. Death row inmate Smyrnes claims isolation cruel and unusual punishment in Westmoreland County case
  5. Man charged with hitting girlfriend with car in East Huntingdon reaches plea agreement
  6. Police: Scottdale man had child porn on computer
  7. Scottdale chamber’s Community Yard Sale to be held Saturday
  8. Sewickley Twp. man who received food stamps didn’t disclose gas royalties
  9. Hempfield cyclist to cool wheels in jail during appeal
  10. More than 100 stamp bags confiscated in Greensburg; 4 arrested
  11. Jeannette man arrested in city shooting