Judge allows West Mifflin school district to rescind tax cut

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When the West Mifflin school board approves its $50.3 million 2014-15 budget next week, it will rescind a 3.122-mill tax decrease it enacted last year to comply with the anti-windfall regulations under the 2013 countywide reassessment.

That action was made possible last week when Common Pleas Judge Timothy O’Reilly approved a petition that district solicitor George Gobel submitted to erase the millage reduction because it was based on an inaccurate assessment figure that Allegheny County provided. The court-ordered countywide assessment was effective Jan. 1, 2013.

According to its petition, the West Mifflin district adopted a 2012-13 budget based on a county assessment of slightly more than $1 billion for all property in the district. For the 2013-14 school year, it adopted a budget based on a county assessment of $1.43 billion. For that year’‍s budget, the school board enacted the millage reduction to create a revenue-neutral budget and avoid collecting a windfall from the reassessment as state law required.

However, because of numerous assessment appeals filed as a result of the reassessment, the district’s total assessment continued to fall and now is at $1.27 billion, the petition said. Each $100 million reduction in assessment equals a $2 million reduction in local real estate revenue.

Because of pending assessment appeals, the district expects the assessment to again be lowered to a total of slightly more than $1 billion. Two major appeals lowered the assessment of Century III Mall from $134 million to its sale price of $11.5 million and that of the U.S. Steel Irvin plant from about $39.7 million to $9.4 million. The district has appealed the U.S. Steel reassessment.

As a result of the decline in assessment, the district experienced a $3.27 million loss of tax revenue and has had to pay out $829,257 in tax refunds to date.

Judge O’‍Reilly approved the petition Tuesday, paving the way for the district to wipe out the tax cut. The proposed new millage total is 24.4965, said district business manager Dennis Cmar.

“We are just trying to correct the errors in the original Allegheny County 2013 assessment,” Mr. Gobel said.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs said county officials are not aware of any other court petitions requesting that tax reductions based on the 2013 reassessment be rescinded. “We’ve never seen it before,” she said, adding that West Mifflin appeared to be in an extraordinary situation with two major commercial reassessments.

Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590.

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