Jeannette man questions city's '03 tax hike
By Richard Gazarik
Published: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Retired postal worker picks $1M winner
- Police see no sign Franklin Regional stabbing suspect was bullied
- Response to Franklin Regional stabbings earns official top public safety spot
- Ligonier Township to consider zoning for ‘agricultural tourism’
- Community turns out for Franklin Regional students’ return to class
- Derry Borough councilwoman pleads guilty in missing-money case
- Jailed Hribal ‘fine,’ but family ‘terrible’ as answers in stabbing sought
- Hempfield Area superintendent, business manager quit
- Police: Volunteer firefighter admits to setting fires
- Students visit Franklin Regional days after mass stabbing
- Judge rules Delmont man was not aggressor in assault outside Wal-Mart