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BLAIRSVILLE: Taxpayers granted more time to pay bill

by on March 19, 2014 10:55 AM

BLAIRSVILLE — Blairsville Borough council is extending a break to taxpayers caught up in the mess that’s been left behind in the tax collector’s office.

At a meeting Tuesday, council agreed to hold off on sending delinquent per capita taxes to collections for another 2ᄑ months. That gives taxpayers until June 1 to show proof that they have paid. Council also agreed to temporarily put off action on property liens.

Both moves come at the recommendation of borough manager Tim Evans, who, along with officials from Blairsville-Saltsburg School District and Indiana County, is continuing to work on sorting out who has paid their 2013 taxes and who hasn’t.

It’s a problem the three entities have been dealing with since tax collector Carol Tarasovich resigned from office in January.

Complaints abound about tax payments that were made but never processed and receipts that were never issued. And a preliminary review by an independent auditor found Tarasovich was sitting on tax payments and that her records were incomplete and inaccurate.

Evans told council Tuesday night that he has been coming across situations in which residents report having paid their taxes but checks related to those payments have yet to be found. And in at least one other case, a person was credited for a payment they never made, Evans said.

Auditors are continuing to review Tarasovich’s books and findings are due sometime soon.

Also Tuesday, council heard from Blairsville Municipal Authority Chairman Terry DiBiase, who reported that the authority has instituted a new billing system. February bills are going out now, and customers will notice the bills are in a new format, he said.

More importantly, he said, customers will now be able to make payments using credit cards either at the authority office or online. Customers also will be able to set up draw-down accounts and view bills electronically.

But he said customers will be paying more — the authority has instituted a rate increase that raises the monthly usage charge by $1 per 1,000 gallons. The charge, which comes on top of a $9.60 service charge, had been $11.40 per 1,000 gallons.

Ron Hood, the authority’s executive director, said the increase was needed partly to help offset the cost of recent sewage system improvements and partly because of unanticipated expenses over a growing dispute with the state Department of Environmental Protection. That dispute relates to combined sewer overflows.

Hood said this is the first sewage fee increase since 2007. He said the authority had tried to mitigate the increase as best it could, making several other budget cuts before imposing the increase.

The authority also is raising the monthly garbage collection fee by $1, taking it to $16.60 per month.

Hood said that increase is due to a landfill fee increase. He said the authority had absorbed the last fee increase, but could not do so this time around.

In other matters, Evans said the cold and snow this winter has taken its toll on the winter road maintenance budget, putting it over by about $15,000. As a result, the borough will have to curtail its summer paving projects by an equivalent amount. So now, he said, the borough will have $20,000 to work with instead of $35,000.

Evans said he plans to suggest streets to include in the work next month.

In other action, council accepted the resignations of Jerry Seitz and Tom Nastase from the planning commission. Evans said neither gave a reason for the decision in letters to council.

Council accepted the resignations with regret, saying the two had served the commission well.

In a related matter, council appointed Maple Avenue resident Irv Lindsey to the commission.

Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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