Pittsburgh City Council unanimously approves Ravenstahl's property tax plan

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Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's property tax proposal, which calls for reducing the property tax rate as well as increasing the discount for qualifying seniors and the exemption for owner-occupied homes.

Under the proposal, the millage would fall 30 percent, from 10.9 mills to 7.36 mills. The decrease was approved to comply with state law prohibiting cities from collecting a windfall in the wake of a reassessment. But because a countywide reassessment increased official property values by 32 percent on average, many property owners could still see their tax bill go up.

The proposal also raises the discount for low-income seniors to 40 percent from 30 percent and the homestead exemption to $15,000 from $10,000.

The mayor also unveiled a new property tax calculatorto help property owners estimate this year's bill.

The concoction of discounts, exemptions and tax rate reductions was calibrated to bring in the same amount of revenue the city collected in 2012 -- around $127 million. When the plan was introduced to council two weeks ago, some members posed tough questions to city finance director Scott Kunka about how the formula was developed.

He reassured them it was the best deal for taxpayers that fell within state law. The owner-occupied home exemption, for example, was increased to the maximum amount allowed by law, according to the city finance department.

Joanna Doven, Mr. Ravenstahl's spokeswoman, said the city is so committed to remaining revenue neutral that it will issue tax refunds if it collects even "a penny more by January of 2013." Because property owners are still appealing their assessments, the city cannot be absolutely certain that the developed formula won't garner additional revenue.

She said the city hasn't determined who will receive refunds or how the city will issue them, but it is exploring offering discounts on 2014 property taxes.

Because assessment appeals delayed setting the tax rate, city tax bills likely will be mailed by the end of February, a month later than normal.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 and on Twitter: @MoriahBee. First Published January 29, 2013 5:00 PM


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