MON VALLEY (KDKA) – Since the death of big steel three decades ago, the towns of the Mon Valley have struggled just to keep their heads above water.
Even places where the mills are still running – like Braddock and Clairton – the towns are struggling to provide their residents basic services.
“We’re at the bare bones as far as personnel goes,” Clairton Manager Howard Bednard said.
But that didn’t stop United Steel from seeking drastic reductions in their assessments.
The county had assessed the Edgar Thompson works in Braddock at $23.5 million, but the appeals board reduced the assessment to $5.1 million.
And in Clairton, the county has assessed the Clairton Works at $14.7 million, but the board reduced that assessment to $2.5 million.
That means the City of Clairton will lose $214,000 in tax revenues.
“It’s a big hit,” said Bednar. “It’s about 20 percent of our real estate tax and about 6 percent of our overall budget.”
Bednar says unlike some wealthier towns, Clairton just can’t afford that kind of loss.
“That would be equivalent to at least two full-time police officers,” he said.
And the blow for the Clairton School District would be even worse.
IF the new assessment stands, US Steel’s school tax bill will be reduced from $545,000 to $130,000 – a decrease of more than $400,000.
“To lose this much tax base is devastating to the district,” said Janet Burkhart who represents the Clairton School District.
US Steel would not comment, but the corporation has also struggled in recent years to stay profitable and has recently looked to cut operating expenses.
A spokesperson did tell KDKA that while the corporation plans to defend the assessment reduction, it will work with the towns to address their concerns.
Burkhart who represents the Clairton School District in their appeal, says US Steel should pony up.
“They use the road, they use the services, their workers go to the schools and I think they have an obligation to help these towns survive and that’s what’s not happening right now,” she said.
And while the City of Pittsburgh has experienced a rebirth, Mon Valley towns like Clairton continue to struggle and they need every dollar they can muster just to keep the street lights on.