Municipal tax rates up slightly in 2019

Municipal tax rates up slightly in 2019

The Allegheny County Treasurer’s Office has published municipal property tax rates for 2019.  On average for the municipalities (excluding Clairton, Duquesne and McKeesport which tax buildings and land at separate rates and Trafford and McDonald which lie partially in adjacent counties) the property tax rate was 6.25 mills, which is 2 percent above the 2018 average.   However, in 2019 only 21 municipalities increased their rate. Five municipalities lowered their rate and 99 made no change from last year.

Since reassessed values went into effect and rates were adjusted in 2013, the average municipal property tax rate has increased 11 percent.

A look at two municipalities with more than $1 billion in assessed value shows the impact of tax rate changes.  Both are single-town school districts as well, so population, assessed value and boundaries are identical between municipality and school district.

Penn Hills had a millage rate hike of 1 mill from 5.44 mills to 6.44 mills.  That increase of 18 percent is the first since 2013 for the municipal rate (on the school district side increases have occurred every year since 2013-14 and have climbed 22 percent).  When examining taxable value, the change from 2018 to 2019 was $4.2 million from $1.385 billion to $1.389 billion.  Applying the new tax rate would yield an additional $1.4 million in tax revenue for the municipality and probably not much peace of mind for the taxpayers knowing that the school tax bills soon to be arriving in the mail will seek another hike.

South Fayette is likewise a single municipal school district and has around the same amount of taxable value ($1.363 billion).  The municipal tax rate did not change in 2019, remaining at 4.73 mills.  The growth in taxable value was much greater than in Penn Hills–$60.1 million from $1.303 billion in 2018. At the same tax rate, South Fayette would generate an additional $284,472 in revenue this year.  On the school district side, the tax rate last went up in 2016-17.

A state mandate to reassess regularly would lead to major improvement in transparency and equity in the imposition of the most burdensome tax authorized for local taxing bodies in Allegheny County and Pennsylvania.