West Deer and Deer Lakes School District officials are exploring a joint effort to jump-start development and increase the tax base.
Township Supervisor Arlind Karpuzi and school board president William Lupone discussed the matter at last week’s supervisors meeting.
Karpuzi wants to focus on doing something that would benefit current and prospective business owners and homeowners, who pay real estate taxes, and people who pay earned income taxes.
“If we’re able to offer some sort of relief from one of those three sources of revenue, would that help?” Karpuzi said.
That relief could be a property tax abatement program or perhaps a tax credit that would not only attract new business and residents, but also spur current township residents to improve their properties, he said.
“To be honest, I don’t think we’re aware of all the tools in our toolbox,” Karpuzi said.
Lupone said the school board has been engaged in similar discussions and acknowledged the need to find new sources of revenue.
He said that is especially true with tax refunds to property owners at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer gained through assessment appeals.
“We’re really looking to put our visions together,” he said. “If we’re not moving forward then we certainly will be moving backward.”
“We would love to hold hands with you guys and say, ‘What are you looking to do?’” Lupone said. “It’s about vision, and if we don’t have the right vision, we’re not going to have the right growth.”
West Deer is the second largest township in Allegheny County by area, officials said, and has plenty of room for business and residential development.
Supervisor Richard DiSanti Jr. supported the idea of a joint effort, regardless whichever route the township chooses to take.
“It has to be consistent and fair and appropriate,” DiSanti said. “And I think the county and the school district have to be on board. I would feel more comfortable if they are on board.”
Recalling a previous tax abatement program, DiSanti said extensions that were granted on developing properties turned it into a “mess.” He wants to avoid a repeat.
The supervisors instructed township Solicitor Sam Happel to research what steps they can legally take. Happel will contact school district Solicitor Ray Sekula to collaborate on that.