New Kensington proposes tax increase to combat blight
An ambitious program to eliminate blight in New Kensington is one factor behind a proposal to raise real estate taxes in the city by 11%.
Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve an $8.1 million preliminary budget that would increase property taxes from 27 mills to 30 mills.
A property owner with a home assessed at $65,000 would see their tax bill go from about $175.50 to $195 next year.
City officials said they want to acquire and demolish about 100 abandoned homes over the next three years. In some cases, they are targeting areas with multiple abandoned homes together that, once demolished, would be more attractive to a potential developer.
The biggest chunk of the preliminary budget, nearly $3 million, is for the police department and related costs.
“In the last 10 or 12 years, we have provided the same level of services,” City Controller John Zavadak said. “We’ve not reduced the police department and, in fact, we’re back up after replacing five (police) retirees from this year.”
Zavadak said overall real estate values have decreased about $5 million in the past five years, and revenue from the city’s mercantile tax has dipped from $300,000 to $165,000. Much of the reduction was caused by the closing of the Kmart store in Riverview Plaza.
“We have about 6,600 housing units in the city and about half are rentals,” Zavadak said. “We’re looking for every source of revenue we can find.”
The city will use a $500,000 demolition grant to help eliminate blight, but it’s hard to say how many demolitions that would cover because some buildings could be more costly to take down if asbestos removal is needed.
About $150,000 was included in the preliminary budget for paving next year.
Councilman Tim DiMaio said the top paving priority is Carl Avenue now that water authority projects there are finished.
Additional streets to be paved will be determined later, according to officials.
A special meeting will be scheduled this month to adopt a final budget.
George Guido is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.