Wilkinsburg mayor supports merger with Pittsburgh

Wilkinsburg officials say a merger would be a win-win situation, with borough residents seeing a steep cut in their property tax bills and Pittsburgh benefiting from a gain in population.

Officials said Wilkinsburg residents would see a steep cut in their property tax bill, and Pittsburgh would benefit from a 15,000-person gain in population.

Property taxes in Wilkinsburg are among the highest in Allegheny County. Wilkinsburg officials said that hurts homeowners and hinders redevelopment.

“If you’re a homeowner who makes $20,000 per year and your house is worth $45,000, you pay 35 percent more in Wilkinsburg than you do in the city so it’s really difficult for people in Wilkinsburg to absorb those costs,” said Tracey Evans, of Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp.

“There are a lot of people who want to stay here, and people who want to move into Wilkinsburg, but the taxes are too much of a burden to promote homeownership or to promote entrepreneurship,” said Wilkinsburg Mayor Marita Garrett.

Garrett said Pittsburgh already provides fire service and trash pickup for the borough.

Garrett said she supports a merger even though it would eliminate her job.

“As a public servant, it’s not about us, it’s about the public if you’re getting into it for the right reasons,” Garrett said.

The petition needs about 340 signatures of Wilkinsburg residents in order to go on the November general election ballot. Pittsburgh City Council must also approve the proposal.

The referendum would not affect Wilkinsburg School District, but officials said it may prompt a school merger with Pittsburgh. Wilkinsburg students from grades 7 through 12 currently attend Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Source: Wilkinsburg mayor supports merger with Pittsburgh