Library windfall

Published by Tim McNulty on .


Taxing bodies from Pittsburgh city government to Allegheny County have rejiggered their property tax rates to avoid a revenue windfall from the new property reassessments -- which drove up Pittsburgh real estate values by nearly 50 percent -- but not the Carnegie Library. Their 1/4 mill tax rate is staying the same.

From my weekend story:

"People might say that's a windfall and yeah I guess we're going to have to say that's true, because we can't change the rate and we can't change it this year and we can't change it 20 years from now," said city Councilman Patrick Dowd, a Carnegie Library board member and vocal proponent of the tax.

City voters overwhelmingly approved the tax 72 percent to 28 percent in a November 2011 referendum. Ballot questions authorizing such taxes are covered by the state's library code, which allows local taxing bodies only to raise the millage rate approved by voters but not cut it.

"The legislative thinking, to the extent there is such a thing, is they don't want a referendum passed and then have the local government body nullifying or reducing the tax," said Downtown attorney Ira Weiss, the library's legal counsel on the tax.

Estimates diverge widely on how much new money the Carnegie Library will get after reassessment.

The library said it expects $3 million this year; that's a modest increase over the $2.95 million the tax generated last year, according to the city Finance Department, which collects it on the library's behalf. The library expects that in later years it will get $3.75 million, or a 25 percent increase in revenue. The Finance Department, however, estimates the library will get $4.2 million from the tax this year, or a 40 percent increase in line with the 48 percent citywide jump in taxable real estate values.

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