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Property rate increasing 1-mill, wage tax also going up
Duquesne City Council has approved a budget for 2021 that includes a boost in spending of about $73,000.
Increased expenditures will be paid for by a combination of a wage tax increase, a property tax increase, and improved water bill collections, city officials said.
Last year was to have been the first year since 1991 that Duquesne was not included under the state’s Act 47, the Financially Distressed Municipalities Act, where the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development assists municipalities that are experiencing severe financial difficulties to ensure residents’ health, safety and welfare.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s participation in the program has been extended.
“We are anticipating that we should be out of Act 47 real soon,” Mayor Nickole Nesby said.
Additional revenue in 2021 will come in part from a 1-mill increase to the city’s property taxes.
Duquesne is one of three municipalities in Allegheny County with a separate millage value for land and buildings. This proposed millage increase applies to the building millage rate and should result in about a 5 percent tax increase for property owners in Duquesne.
The increased tax adds a projected $100,000 in city tax revenue.
Because the city still is considered financially distressed, it also has received permission from the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County to increase the Earned Income Tax above the maximum rate established by law. For 2021, it will be set at 1.9 percent with 0.5 percent earmarked for the Duquesne City School District.
Another $55,000 in additional revenue is expected from a $55,000 increase from metered sales of water to customers.
Delinquent water bills are an ongoing issue in Duquesne. In 2019, the city had about $40,000 worth of delinquent water bills. In 2020, the number spiked due to the COVID-19 pandemic as 373 residents defaulted on their water bills, totaling $112,000 in missing revenue.
Nesby pointed out that there is funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the stimulus bill passed by Congress in March, for paying utilities during the pandemic.
City council has discussed possible solutions to this lost revenue, including cracking down on collection and providing assistance to people who wish to apply for the CARES utility assistance program, but they did not reach a conclusion.
Nesby said that in coming years, the city’s financial outlook should improve due to pending projects such as an indoor aquaponics plant which is estimated to generate $45 million for Duquesne’s economy in the next three years. The facility is expected to break ground in the first quarter of 2021.
Nesby also pointed to an ongoing project by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC), in conjunction with the McKeesport Area Recovery Plan, to redevelop 240 acres of former industrial sites along the Monongahela River in Duquesne.
Nick Zurawsky is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published January 11, 2021.