My four-year term that began January 1, 2016, will end December 31, 2019. These past four years were a wonderful and terrific educational experience for me. I had much interaction with residents and municipal employees in addressing issues. As I have mentioned in my past columns in this magazine, there is much to be proud of in Mt. Lebanon. There are many dedicated municipal employees and genuinely interested residents who make this a great place to live. This unique combination has made my commission experience positive.
Looking back, the main reasons I ran for commissioner were to bring fiscal responsibility, to strengthen the Home Rule Charter’s taxing limits, to discontinue the municipality’s practice of appealing residential tax assessments and to return respectful decorum to meetings and communication.
Over the past four years, I and the rest of the commission have exercised good fiscal stewardship with only one tax increase, of 0.2 mills, which was used for the improvement of income-producing assets and public works. And the commission has maintained the General Fund unassigned fund balance in the healthy range of about 12 percent to 15 percent of expenditures. Next, we addressed some obsolete language in the Home Rule Charter that did not account for the assessment base moving from 25 percent to 100 percent. The Commission passed an ordinance that ensured that the aggregate of all taxes—real estate, earned income, and transfer tax—could only be raised to a maximum of 10 percent of the prior year’s expenditures.
We also discussed the issue of the municipality appealing residents’ real estate taxes. I was joined by one other commissioner in my desire to discontinue the program. Although we did not have enough votes to discontinue the practice, the program methodology used to select assessed properties for appeal recently did not yield a significant population to justify the appeal process. The municipality also sent letters to the Allegheny County Executive requesting that the county do its job in regularly reassessing properties to bring fairness in real estate taxes paid.
Lastly, as the only Republican on the commission, I had nothing but a positive experience working with the current team of John Bendel, Kelly Fraasch, Steve Silverman and Craig Grella, as well as former commissioner Dave Brumfield. The problems and issues that came before the Commission were all discussed politely, professionally, respectfully and with the desire to hear all points of view. These discussions were often moderated by Keith McGill, manager, Ian McMeans, assistant manager, and Phil Weis, solicitor. They helped us to stay on point and to consider alternative options. This respectful interaction in these executive discussions carried over to the public meetings and in communication with staff and residents.
As my term is coming to its end, I trust the residents of the Third Ward, as well as all other residents, agree that I served the community well and with their best interest always first. It was an honor and privilege to serve the community and to work alongside the talented other commissioners and the proud and dedicated municipal staff.