A motion to put two homes on Bell Avenue up for sheriff's sale was passed unanimously in Scott, but the action drew a strong response from one official.
"I do not have any problems with placing tax-delinquent properties up for sheriff sale. I do have problems with the public directing our lack of a policy," Commissioner Bill Wells said Jan. 22, referring to the fact that the impetus behind the motion was a request from a business owner who wants to use the two sites for development.
"This is very Orwellian and reminds me of the book 'Animal Farm,' " Mr. Wells said, noting that $1,923.10 in back taxes, penalties and interest is owed on the two homes.
"This is not a huge amount of money and, if a resident had not offered to pay for this sheriff sale, it would not be on this agenda," he said. "All properties need to be looked at and everyone should be on a level playing field, not just properties that someone wants to acquire."
The company, Atlas Industries Inc., has an office building nearby and wants the two properties for expansion. Commissioner David Jason, in whose ward the properties are located, mentioned there was a prospective buyer about a month ago.
According to solicitor John Vogel only "a handful" of homes have been up for sheriff's sale in Scott within the past 10 years.
Mr. Wells asked that the township manager form a policy and that a list be compiled of all tax delinquent properties where their values are greater than the owed taxes. He wants the Chartiers Valley School District to join in this effort, too.
Also, he requested that an ordinance allowing for the payment of back taxes without sheriff's sales be developed for residents who are "down on their luck."
When board President Tom Castello, who said he disagreed with the logic behind Mr. Wells' requests, pointed out that such requests would "take a lot of time," Mr. Wells responded, "We need a lot of policy."
He added that he wants these items available for discussion at the March agenda meeting. Manager Denise Fitzgerald said she would get a list of tax delinquent properties from the tax collector.
"With our present policy, a person can purchase a home, pay no taxes, rent the property for 10 years, let the property become blighted and walk away, leaving the taxpaying residents to demolish the home and pick up the tax. Also, if we are not going after back taxes, it makes no sense for any resident to pay their taxes," Mr. Wells pointed out.
"I pay my taxes because it is the right thing to do, but it is right for everyone to pay. This needs to change immediately! Some of these tax cheaters buy what they want and beg what they need. If everyone shares in the burden of paying their taxes, the tax burden will be lessened for all," he said.
Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: email@example.com.