Many taxing bodies, including Allegheny County, will see lower millage rates this year to offset increases in average property values, but Baldwin Township officials cannot yet say for sure that they will follow suit, mostly due to their township's size and limited number of properties.
Baldwin Township, with only around 800 properties and truly no major developments, relies heavily on its millage rate to maintain adequate services, but county officials still have appeals to hear regarding the assessed values of around 15 township properties. And, according to township tax collector Marilyn G. Wagner, most of those 15 are commercial properties, some of which have been assessed at over $1 million in value before appeals.
Should many of those property owners be successful or even partially successful in lowering the assessed values of their lots, Baldwin Township's current millage rate of 9.50—the highest among the Baldwin-Whitehall School District's three municipalities—might not drop significantly.
[A 9.50 rate equates to $950 per year for anyone with a property valued at $100,000 (land and building value combined). (Click here to calculate your individual taxes based on 2012 rates.)]
To further complicate the matter, should Baldwin Township see—despite appeals—an overall increase in assessed property values, keeping the same millage rate for 2013 (when the reassessments take effect) would result in a "windfall" of increased tax revenue for the township, something that is illegal. To balance that, the local board would have to lower Baldwin's millage rate. However, the law allows for the township to adjust its lowered millage rate at 105 percent instead of just 100 percent—in other words, more revenue.
And Baldwin Township's officials have not yet officially decided if they want to use that extra 5 percent.
So for now, local leaders seem intent on waiting as long as possible to set their millage, at least according to township solicitor Tom McDermott, who acts at the direction of the commissioners.
"We will wait as long as we are legally allowed—into the spring—to actually enact our millage ordinance," McDermott said at a commissioners meeting on Tuesday night. "The longer we wait, the more accurate number we have upon which to calculate our millage in compliance with the anti-windfall requirements."
McDermott said that, by court order, the township's officials have until June 30 to set their millage. But Wagner said that the process of printing and mailing local tax bills to property owners will require that they make a decision much sooner than that.
To boot, Wagner said that she normally sends out the township's tax bills in the last week of April every year, and McDermott said that, also by court order, a municipality must set its millage at least 10 days prior to mailing those bills.
Wagner said that she would be comfortable with setting a millage rate even if not all of Baldwin Township's property appeals have been heard by that point.
"I don't think every single one of them has to be settled before we set our millage," Wagner said, " ... but more than we have (settled) now."
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch on Wednesday for more news from Tuesday night's meeting.
And click here for more Baldwin Township news.
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