Concerned over how Allegheny County officials will rule on property value appeals—including ones from Baldwin Township property owners—the township's Board of Commissioners has decided to hold off on finalizing Baldwin's 2013 budget.
The commissioners, acting on a recommendation from township solicitor Tom McDermott, made that decision by way of a 4-0 vote at their meeting on Tuesday night. (Commissioner Nick Pellegrino was absent.)
County officials aren't expected to finish making decisions on property value appeals stemming from a court-ordered countywide real estate reassessment until late December, so the Baldwin Township Board of Commissioners will have to wait until at least then to make a final decision on the township's 2013 millage rate, which of course, is the key piece to its budget.
In fact, the county might not finish making their decisions until January 2013.
While many taxing bodies, including Allegheny County itself, will see lower millage rates in 2013 to offset increases in average property values, Baldwin Township officials cannot say for sure that they will follow suit, mostly due to the township's size and limited number of properties.
The township's current millage rate is at 9.50—the highest among the Baldwin-Whitehall School District's three municipalities—but Baldwin Township also represents the smallest Baldwin-Whitehall community by far with only around 800 properties and truly no major developments, causing the township to rely on its millage rate to maintain adequate services.
Even if Baldwin Township's officials decide to lower its millage rate, local taxpayers might still end up paying more in property tax than they did in 2012.
The explanation: If Baldwin Township sees an overall increase in assessed property values, keeping the same millage rate for next year (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 when it approves the township's 2013 budget. 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 township Manager Mary McGinley said in an interview on Tuesday night that Baldwin Township's elected officials, just like the elected officials of Baldwin and Whitehall boroughs, plan to do just that should circumstances dictate.
But McGinley stressed that it is still too soon for her to say with any confidence what kind of adjustments, if any, the township will make to its millage rate for next year.
The township's board may decide to hold a special public meeting once it learns of the county's decisions regarding assessments appeals.
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch for updates.
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