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Penn Hills mayor revives discussion about single tax collector

| Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004

Penn Hills Mayor Anthony DeLuca Jr. is again raising the prospect of switching to one tax collector instead of two as a way of saving money.

One sticking point in the long-running argument has been the issue of sewer billing. DeLuca, who campaigned on ending the dual collection system, announced this week that the two water authorities that supply Penn Hills would be willing to collect sewer fees as well.

DeLuca contends that this would be a more efficient way of handling the sewer billing, since the fees are calculated directly from a customer's water usage.

Officials at the Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority, the municipality's primary water supplier, could not be reached for comment.

The Oakmont Water Authority, which has 7,564 water customers in Penn Hills, is interested in handling the sewer billing if details can be worked out, said authority business manager Bill Kagarise.

For years, Central Tax Bureau has handled sewer billing and collection of property taxes for the municipality. Since 1991, the Penn Hills School District has collected its own property taxes.

"I've also asked the school district to submit a proposal for collection of real estate taxes," DeLuca added.

School district business manager Bruce Dakan said he received a letter from DeLuca last week and plans to have a cost proposal completed by Friday.

"I have a file that I've kept through the years, because the district has made other proposals in the past," Dakan said.

Penn Hills Council met in executive session this week with Central Tax officials to review the company's contract proposal for 2005. Legal consultant Al Zangrilli declined to comment on why the presentation, requested by Deputy Mayor Yvonne Lamanna, was not done in public.

The Rev. J-LaVon Kincaid said he and other council members did not discuss the Central Tax proposal during the executive session.

"They made their presentation and we thanked them and they left," Kincaid said. "I'm still trying to sort it all out and see what's most efficient for the community."

Kincaid said he has not seen any proposals from the water authorities.

"When these discussions come up, I've found that they bring up decades of history," said Kincaid, who was appointed to a council vacancy in March.

The most recent set of proposals sought by council for real estate tax collections came in late 2001, when Jordan Tax Service submitted a proposal calling for an annual fee of $277,058. Central Tax put in an initial proposal of $304,562 but later reduced the fee to $277,000 -- $58 less than Jordan's.

That modified proposal from Central Tax was $145,000 less than the school district's offer of $422,186.

The Central Tax contract called for two single-year options to renew in 2003 and 2004. Its current contract expires at the end of this year.

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