Steel plants' assessment reductions are outrageous

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Given the long and loud outrage expressed by Allegheny County taxpayers over property assessments, I find it incredible that not a peep has been uttered over the dramatic devaluation of the three U.S. Steel plants in the Mon Valley.

As reported May 20 ("Lower Steel Plant Assessments Hurt School Budgets"), U.S. Steel won an assessment reduction at its newly revitalized Clairton plant from $14.7 to $2.5 million. In its argument, it used abandoned industrial sites as comparisons.

I don't know whether to call this ridiculous, immoral or illegal. Or whether to call it a fantastic precedent for all property owners -- that we should all petition to disregard the value of buildings on our property and win reductions to the levels of the nearest abandoned lot.

The Clairton Plant has 10 coke batteries, and in the USS 2012 Annual Report "Message from the Chairman," CEO John Surma states, "Construction of the new technologically and environmentally advanced coke battery and its associated quench tower at our Clairton Plant was completed in November. We anticipate full (annual) production at nearly one million tons ... from this state-of-the-art facility."

U.S. Steel stated in 2010 that it would spend at least $60 million to construct quench towers and "unestimated additional costs to improve Batteries 1, 2 and 3, and to construct the new C Battery."

In 2012, U.S. Steel Corp. had net sales of $19.3 billion and total assets of $15.2 billion. And in 2012, the top three executives made over $18 million. So clearly U.S. Steel has enough money to pay its fair share.

I challenge county residents to demand a thorough investigation of U.S. Steel and other corporate property assessments -- or demand that your own property be assessed for its value as a vacant lot too.

MARY D. WRONIAK
Mt. Lebanon


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