Mt. Lebanon budget adopted, tax rate will be decided later

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Mt. Lebanon commissioners adopted a 2013 budget for the municipality Tuesday, but property owners will have to wait to see what the associated tax rate will be.

Because of the reassessment of all Allegheny County property, commissioners voted for an ordinance that acknowledged "the millage will need to be reduced. However, the final calculation cannot be made at this time because appeals have not yet been decided."

The county eventually will provide a total for assessed value of property in Mt. Lebanon. Commissioners then will set a tax rate based on the final amount of real estate tax revenue the municipality expects to receive.

Right now, property tax revenue is estimated at just under $12 million, which represents a 4.2 percent increase over 2012 in the recommended budget compiled by municipal Manager Stephen Feller.

By state law, municipalities in the first year of a reassessment can budget for up to 105 percent of the prior year's real estate tax revenue, or a 5 percent increase.

Mt. Lebanon's tax rate is projected to drop to an estimated 4.4 to 4.89 mills, according to the manager's information. The 2012 rate is 5.43 mills.

The 2013 budget, as adopted, includes several amendments to the manager's recommended budget, which was approved in November.

One addition is $12,000 for a deer survey, a subject that drew heavy commentary by residents during prior budget discussions, many of them objecting to the possibility of a cull.

Commissioners decided to change the wording in the budget package to reflect that the money is earmarked "to conduct a deer density survey and prepare a deer management plan." References to submitting information to the state Game Commission were eliminated.

Other expenditures added to the budget since last month include:

• Development consultant, $35,000. The consultant will help obtain grants and generate revenue from other outside sources, such as donations and sale of products.

• Streaming video on the municipal website, $13,100. The material will be archived, available on demand and used for public comment.

• Additional contribution to Medical Rescue Team South Authority, $16,200. Commissioner David Brumfield said MRTSA is building a capital fund toward the purchase of ambulances and other essentials.

The 2013 general fund budget totals $31.27 million.

On Tuesday, some residents questioned the recent increases in spending. Bill Matthews of Navahoe Drive has contended that the increase in the amount budgeted for real estate tax revenue represents a tax increase, even with the pending decrease in millage.

"We have to shut the spigot off," he told commissioners. "If that means we reduce the number of services, then so be it."

Mr. Brumfield, though, said that some expenses, such as major improvements to the municipality's infrastructure, are intended "to save money in the long run."

"We have a duty to residents, and it's not to make their taxes as low as possible," he said. "It's to make Mt. Lebanon the best community it can be."

neigh_south

Harry Funk , freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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