Massive Reductions In Tax Assessments Could Spell Disaster For Mill Towns
BRADDOCK (KDKA) — As much of its shuttered business district attests, Braddock has struggled to stay afloat through three decades of hard times.
It hasn’t been until recently that it’s shown signs of resurgence with new housing and amenities to attract new families.
But that recovery could be derailed if a court upholds a massive appeals board assessment reduction of U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thompson Works from $23.5 million to $5.1 million.
For Braddock that would mean a loss of $160,000 in tax revenues.
it’s something Mayor John Fetterman says cannot and will not happen.
“Everyone agrees that we want to work together and solve this. So no one is looking at that doomsday scenario,” says Mayor Fetterman.
But Braddock is not alone.
In Clairton, the county had 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.
City Manager Howard Bednar says unlike some wealthier towns, Clairton just can’t afford that kind of loss.
“It’s a big hit. It’s about 20 percent of what we budget for the real estate tax, and about six percent of our overall budget,” Bednar says. “That would be equivalent to at least two full-time police officers.”
And the blow for the Clairton School District would be even worse.
If the new assessment stands, U.S. Steel’s school tax bill will be reduced from $545,000 to $130,000, meaning the steel giant will be paying the district $416,000 less in taxes.
“To lose this much tax base is devastating to the district,” says Attorney Janet Burkhardt.
U.S. Steel says it will work with the towns, and Mayor Fetterman takes them at their word.
“We haven’t had to do any arm twisting,” he said. “We’re in talks now and they’ve been positive and U.S. Steel has… you know, the get it.”
In the face of devastating consequences, the Mayor remains optimistic.
Although none of these towns or school districts is in a strong bargaining position, they are relying on the good will of the steel giant to do what they believe is the right thing.