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Mayor: 3-mill increase on buildings designated for public safety
Click to Download McKeesport’s 2024 Budget
City council has approved a 3-mill property tax increase for 2024 that McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said is directed toward salary increases for police officers and additional personnel for the police and fire departments.
The increase from 8.26 to 11.26 mills will only impact the value of buildings, not land.
The 2024 budget otherwise holds overall spending to 2023 levels and cuts expenses in several areas, Cherepko said following Wednesday night’s 5-0 vote. Council members Tim Brown and Brian Evans were absent.
Separately, council by 5-0 vote approved a four-year contract with members of the city’s police union that includes a 15.5 percent increase for 2024 and additional 3 percent increases in 2025, 2026 and 2027.
McKeesport police officers are represented by Teamsters Local 205.
“With this particular contract, we were able to negotiate a contract that I believe will help us retain officers, attract new officers, and put our officers at a comparable wage with many other departments throughout this area,” Cherepko said.
“This contract will not in anyway pay them what I think they deserve, but it will be a much more livable wage,” he said. “It was a tough year.”
Cherepko said the city struggled to retain and recruit experienced police officers in the wake of the Feb. 6 murder of Officer Sean Sluganski and the wounding of his partner, Officer Chuck Thomas, as they responded to a domestic dispute in the Grandview neighborhood.
“I admire the perseverance that each and every one of these men and women have shown,” Cherepko said. “We take for granted what many of the families are thinking. They’re hoping and praying they will never have to receive the phone calls that Officer Sluganski’s family received.”
McKeesport is making a major investment in public safety in 2024, Cherepko said. There are now 45 full-time police officers — up from 37 a few years ago, he said — and four additional full-time firefighters, bringing the total to 20.
Most other city departments have faced cuts this year totalling $800,000, he said, including the loss of positions through attrition. “Public safety cannot withstand further downsizing,” Cherepko said.
Along with Pittsburgh, Clairton and Duquesne, McKeesport is one of four communities in Allegheny County with a two-tier property tax system, in which separate taxes are levied on buildings and land.
Each mill represents $1 in taxes for $1,000 in value. Based on Allegheny County real estate records, in most parts of McKeesport, a house’s value represents about 75 percent of the total property value.
With the 3-mill increase, a homeowner whose property is valued at $83,000 could expect their property taxes to increase about $186.75.
Council by 5-0 vote also approved a new three-year contract with members of the Public Works Department, represented by Teamsters Local 205. That contract provides 3 percent raises each year.
“During the last year of their current contract they actually had a pay freeze,” even though the cost-of-living has increased rapidly, Cherepko said. “Obviously the city is in no position to give them the entire cost of living adjustment, but we feel like we’ve been able to negotiate a contract that’s fair.”
Although Brown was absent, Wednesday’s meeting would have been his last as a member of city council. Brown, who recently took a job as dean of students at Woodland Hills High School in Churchill, did not seek re-election.
He previously held administrative roles at McKeesport Area High School.
“I want to acknowledge and thank him for his service to the community for the last eight years as a city councilman, and before that, for his service to the school district,” Cherepko said, addressing other members of council. “All too often, people take for granted what you do up here.”
Jason Togyer is volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. and editor of Tube City Almanac.
Originally published December 07, 2023.