Allegheny County council members refuse to override Fitzgerald's first veto

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An attempt to override the first veto exercised by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald fell short Tuesday night at a county council meeting.

Sue Means, a Bethel Park Republican, led the override attempt, but only was able to collect seven other council members in her corner. A successful override requires 10 votes from the council's 15 members.

Mr. Fitzgerald exercised his veto right on Friday regarding two pieces of legislation passed earlier this month by county council. The legislation involved two tax abatements, one that gives a two-year county property tax break to new home construction and one that gives an abatement for home improvements.

Several council members, including Ms. Means, supported continuing the abatements begun in 1996 as a way to encourage people to move to Allegheny County and increase the tax base.

On Tuesday, as well as earlier this month, area homebuilders offered their comments to county council members, urging them to keep the abatement programs in place and describing the new home construction abatement especially as something that often makes a difference between a homeowner choosing to build in Allegheny County versus a neighboring county.

Mr. Fitzgerald, on Friday, said he made his veto with an eye toward holding down property taxes for all residents, rather than giving tax breaks to a smaller number of residents. He said he supported tapering down the two programs. The home construction tax abatement costs the county about $2 million annually. The home improvement abatement program costs about $1,000 annually.

But for Ms. Means, and other council members who wanted to keep the full abatements in place, the night was not a complete loss. The council passed legislation to increase the amount of the home improvement exemption program from $36,000 to $66,000 but reduce the amount of the new home construction exemption program to 50 percent of the assessed value through 2015, which will cost the county about $1 million a year.

Mr. Fitzgerald, announcing his veto last week, said he supported the amended bills.

Council members voted to pass the amended abatement programs by a vote of 12 to 2.

Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, however, did give council another tax abatement program to think about. He proposed an ordinance to decrease the homestead and farmstead property tax exemptions.

Council President John DeFazio, D-Shaler, referred the topic to the budget and finance committee.


Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.

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