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Irwin council override means 3-mill real estate tax increase

Joe Napsha
| Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, 11:03 p.m.

Irwin property owners will pay an additional 3 mills in real estate taxes next year now that borough council voted unanimously to override the mayor's veto of the 20 percent increase to fund the 2016 budget.

Council members Michael Pochan, Deborah Kelly, Gail Macioce, John Cassandro and Robert Dittman voted at a special meeting Saturday to override Mayor Robert Wayman's Dec. 16 veto of the ordinance that raised the millage to 18 mills to support the $5.15 million budget. The budget with the tax increase initially was approved Dec. 9 by a 4-2 vote, with Peggie Watson and Joanna Jordan opposing it and the tax increase.

Wayman and Jordan, who has been acting council president since Watson abruptly resigned Dec. 9, did not attend the special meeting. Dittman, who was appointed by council Dec. 9 to fill the remaining two years of Phyllis Thiem's term, was attending his first council meeting.

The mayor could not be reached for comment.

In vetoing the tax hike, Wayman said the rationale “is based on false premises and is inconsistent with the facts and the laws of mathematics.”

Wayman had characterized the tax increase as unnecessary and unfair because Irwin has a capital reserve fund with more than $600,000, as well as $99,000 from the sale of property to the Western Westmoreland Municipal Authority. The money from the property sale is greater than the estimated $90,000 that is generated from 3 mills of property taxes, Wayman said.

After the meeting, Pochan said taking $90,000 from the capital reserve account would have reduced that account by too much.

“Using the $100,000 (from the property sale) is a temporary fix” because of the increase in expenditures, Pochan said.

During the past four years, councils should have increased property taxes by 1 mill, which would have lessened the tax hike for 2016, Pochan said.

Macioce said she voted to reinstate the 3-mill tax hike because she believed it is necessary. Macioce said she disagreed with Wayman's rationale that council could have tapped the capital reserve fund or the money from the property sale, saying they should not use a one-time revenue stream to fund ongoing operations.

“We will decide what best to do with the money,” Macioce said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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