Monroeville tax increase approved over outcry by residents

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Monroeville residents spent hours Thursday night again excoriating council over a string of recent decisions, including a tax hike and shake-ups in the positions of police chief and municipal manager.

Residents questioned the wisdom of raising taxes while planning to pay for police Chief Steven Pascarella and interim manager Lynette McKinney to earn bachelor's degrees.

Paying for employees' education isn't unusual; the municipality has paid tens of thousands of dollars in education reimbursements for seven employees since 2005, including more than $4,000 for Chief Pascarella to take courses at Point Park University.

Resident Tammy Richardson said she'd like to retire in Monroeville, but now she's planning to move as soon as her youngest graduates from high school.

"I would just like you all to know, you're losing good people in this community," she told council, adding that she'd move to a neighborhood in the North Hills. "They might be just as crazy out there, but at least my taxes would be lower."

Meetings in Monroeville for the past five weeks have been tense in the wake of last month's demotion of former Chief Doug Cole, one of several controversial personnel moves in the municipality in the first months of 2013.

In January, former manager Jeff Silka resigned, saying he was told by a bloc of council members to remove then-Chief Cole or be fired himself. Council accepted his resignation Jan. 31 and immediately appointed Ms. McKinney to the interim manager position; it is the second time she has held the post in as many years.

Two days after Ms. McKinney was appointed, she demoted Chief Cole to sergeant, prompting an outcry and demands to reinstate Sgt. Cole as chief.

Several residents said Thursday night that both Chief Pascarella and Ms. McKinney should earn the degrees before they are appointed.

"You don't get the job, then get the degree," said resident Kathy Hackworth.

Ms. McKinney holds an associate's degree from the Community College of Allegheny County's Boyce campus. She has worked for the municipality for 24 years, serving as a secretary in the manager's office for the past 20 years.

Others noted that they are already funding their and their children's educations and don't want their tax dollars to go toward paying for the college educations of municipal employees.

Thursday night, council voted, 4-3, to appoint Chief Pascarella to the top job in the police department. Councilmen Jim Johns, Steve Duncan and Nick Gresock dissented.

Next week, council is scheduled to vote on ordinances appointing Ms. McKinney as manager and approving a pay and benefits package for Chief Pascarella.

Chief Pascarella has served on the Monroeville police force for 25 years. He was sworn in as assistant chief in August 2011. He is a lifelong Monroeville resident, Ms. McKinney noted in recommending him.

Council also voted, 6-1, to raise taxes to 2.431 mills, which is above the windfall amount allowed by law following property reassessments in Allegheny County.

Councilman Bernhard Erb dissented. It is the first tax hike in the municipality since 1991.

The municipality last month received permission from a Common Pleas Court judge to increase its millage rate above the windfall amount to 2.431 mills, but no higher.

Monroeville's 2012 tax rate was 2.2 mills. To remain revenue-neutral, the municipality would have to lower the rate to 1.8 mills, but the municipality says it needs to raise the rate to cover its expenses.

"There are other things we could be doing other than paying for severance packages, lawsuits, college," Ms. Richardson said. "I don't want to open my wallet anymore."

mobilehome - neigh_east

Annie Siebert: or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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