Allegheny County extends property tax bill by one month

Feb 06, 2013

Allegheny County residents have an extra 30 days to pay their county taxes, thanks to a math error that's forcing the treasurer's office to re-print the bills.

At Tuesday's county council meeting, council members voted to push back the deadline for paying discounted real estate taxes to April 30, or May 31 for those paying the face value. Taxes are typically due in full by the end of April, with those seeking discounts filing by late March.

The reason? The county discovered it didn't adjust the homestead/farmstead exemption, which cuts property owners a tax break for their primary residence or farm to account for new property assessments.

Last year, residents could lop $15,000 off the assessed value of their property, cutting their tax bill by $85.35. But that was before the county lowered taxes, a state requirement to avoid windfall revenue amid the ongoing property reassessment.

After tax bills were printed with the $15,000 figure, county lawyers realized they'd have to raise the deduction to $18,000 to avoid overcharging residents and keep the county's budget balanced.

Without the change, the exemption would have been worth $14.40 less, county solicitor Andrew Szefi said.

County Council passed the emergency measure without the usual waiting period, but not without grumbles. Some members complained they were rushing through a quick fix without a thorough understanding of how it could affect the overall budget picture.

Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, noted the county isn't giving residents the same deal as before: With an $18,000 cutoff, a property owner will save only $85.14, short-changing them by 21 cents and netting the county an extra $66,000. Mr. Szefi said the difference was due to rounding.

"I feel very uncomfortable that we're going to rush through this legislation without talking about it," Ms. Heidelbaugh said.

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