Columnist: West Mifflin not friendly to Kennywood

Posted Friday, January 14, 2005 10:38 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Tribune-Review columnist Dimitri Vassilaros says that West Mifflin is getting a free ride at Kennywood's expense. The municipality collects amusement taxes and now an "occupation tax" from its workers.

Read more from The Tribune-Review.

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Friday, January 14, 2005 11:13 AM
This is the reason that so many business's have moved or closed up in Pennsylvania. I live in the Harrsburg area. A lot of good paying jobs have been lost, and only to be replaced with jobs that don't pay crap.
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Friday, January 14, 2005 11:30 AM
Wow, that really sucks for Kennywood. It reminds me of the parking tax thing between Sandusky and Cedar Point. Did they ever end up fighting it in court or did they just accept it? It must be nice for the borough to have a cash cow like that. Unlike other municipalities that have to worry about things like balancing budgets, not getting raises, and possible job loss, they just raise the tax whenever they need money. That must be the way things are, when your the only game in town.
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Friday, January 14, 2005 12:15 PM
OK, the idea to *move* Kennywood to an interstate exit is the worst idea I've ever heard. Kennywood's urban location is the best thing about it. It's unique.

Not to mention that four out of five coasters would be rendered useless without the terrain that shapes them. That is, if they would attempt to move them.

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Friday, January 14, 2005 12:53 PM
For what it's worth, the Tribune Review makes our current president look like a tax-and-spend maniac.

Not that the op-ed piece isn't reasonable, but "yinz should know your source an' 'at".

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Friday, January 14, 2005 12:57 PM
I agree Den that moving Kennywood would be cost prohibitive. Sure, there are plenty of hillsides in the area, but I would think recreating the hillside for Phantom's Revenge and Thunderbolt would be very expensive.
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Friday, January 14, 2005 2:02 PM
Yea but Brian, the extreme shortcomings of the Trib as an objective news source aside, the quotes from the West Mifflin borough official tell you more than you'd need to know.

I wonder if there's some procedure that Kennywood could split from West Mifflin and become it's own entity? It is located on the edge of the borough. I'd love to see West Mifflin squirm and whine when Kennywood pulls out. The municipality that I work in has done the same crap - used the $10-$52 raise intended to bail out Pittsburgh to stuff their own already excessively-stuffed pockets.

Someone please consolidate this county under one government already!!!

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Friday, January 14, 2005 2:07 PM
Pete's avatar It reminds me of the CP parking tax thing also. Pale Rider, CP didn't need to go to court. Sandusky backed down and removed the tax.
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Friday, January 14, 2005 2:08 PM

It also means the seasonal temporary workers, many of them kids from West Mifflin, will have a large chunk of their first paycheck gobbled up by the borough.

I'm not sure I understand this. The article doesn't mention anything about increasing payroll taxes. If I read this article correctly they raised the tax per ticket sold, the occupation tax, and an amusement device tax. How would that affect a seasonal?

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Friday, January 14, 2005 2:36 PM

Someone please consolidate this county under one government already!!!

It's worse than that, as the counties surrounding also have significant populations that work in Pittsburgh (and elsewhere in Allegheney County). For example, *lots* of people live in Cranberry, just over the county line, to save a few hundreds (or maybe even a thousand) in property taxes each year. The fact that they spend that and more commuting into their jobs in the city seems lost on them, but that's they way it goes, I suppose.

But, you're right. The patchwork of governments in western penna are about as dysfunctional a metro area as I've seen.

*** This post was edited by Brian Noble 1/14/2005 2:37:37 PM ***

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Friday, January 14, 2005 2:44 PM
The seasonal is taxed(the occupation tax) for the privelage of working in borough, with, as I understand it, $52.00 taken from their first pay check.
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Friday, January 14, 2005 3:11 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

For example, *lots* of people live in Cranberry, just over the county line, to save a few hundreds (or maybe even a thousand) in property taxes each year.

Yeah, Cranberry Twp has gotten huge. For quite a while is was one of the fastest developing areas in the United States.

However, while I normally agree with figuring everything into the equation, I have to disagree with commuting costs equaling the property tax difference.

Butler County (where Cranberry Twp is located) figures taxes as 75% of 1969 assessments, while Allegheny County figures at 100% of current market value.

The difference? For every $100,000 of home value in Butler County, you pay somewhere between $750 and $1135, but in Allegheny County every $100,000 of home value get you about $2800 in taxes.

Consider you can't touch a decent 3 BR home in Cranberry for less than $140,000 or $150,000 (my opinion, not sure of the median home value) and you have a difference in tax of as much as $3000 a year for living just a few more miles out and crossing the county line. Consider that most of the new growth in Cranberry is new and upscale (homes for well over that amount) and the savings get larger.

It's just 30 miles from Cranberry to Downtown Pittsburgh. Gas, maintanence and depreciation on your vehicle probably aren't going to come close to eating away that $3000.

*** This post was edited by Lord Gonchar 1/14/2005 3:12:40 PM ***

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Friday, January 14, 2005 3:17 PM
The seasonal gets the $52 taken out of their first paycheck of the year, instead of $10 as it was before. All workers that don't work in the same municipality as they live in (nearly impossible due to the shear number of different little governments around here) have to pay it. I think if you live in the same place, it's taken off your local taxes or something like that.

Brian - I'm semi-guilty of that too, I just bought a house in Beaver County, literally a stone's throw over the county line, but I still work in Allegheny. But, I don't have that much gas and such, I work in the next municipality over.

The worst part about it is that very few (like Mr. West Mifflin there) would ever admit that there's any dysfunction. It's going to have to be forced if it's ever going to happen because no elected official of a municipality is going to give up their seat of "power" just so that everything works better. They'll hang on until they're standing on an island, but dammit, they still rule that island! ;)

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Friday, January 14, 2005 5:21 PM
It's threads like this that make me appreciate this website. I'd be lucky on the other internet boards I frequent to find a handful of people who own homes, let alone understand the tax issues.
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Friday, January 14, 2005 5:28 PM
Things really are screwed up around Pittsburgh. I can't even read my about coasters without it creeping into things. I know though for a fact that if you work in the city of Pittsburgh and make under 12,000 a year I think, you can get the extra $42 dollars back at the end of the year so that would help with the seasonal employees. This is about coasters so I'll stop, but the moving of kennywood is quite comical.
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Friday, January 14, 2005 5:31 PM
I'm sorry but West Mifflin is a dump. Where is all this money going? Kennywood is the only good thing there, and it's been there for over a hundred years, supporting them. If Kennywood were not there, I don't know what would happen to that town. This is really discouraging, especially since it appears they won't be getting any relief anytime soon.
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Friday, January 14, 2005 6:13 PM
Gonch: Figure you are driving an extra 15 miles, one way, per day. You work (at least) 200 days per year (that's a generous 12 weeks of vacation). That's 200x15x2 extra miles per year, or a total of 6000 miles. At the IRS rate of 37.5 cents per mile (which is perhaps arguable), you are looking at $2250. Add in the extra commuting time lost (another half hour per day---if you are making $20/hr, that's potential lost revenue of $50 per work week, or another $2000, and I make considerably more than $20/hour) plus the aggravation of the longer commute, and it seems pretty clear to me.

I once made the mistake of doing this calculation for a woman I was dating who lived in Cranberry and worked downtown. She didn't appreciate it.

*** This post was edited by Brian Noble 1/14/2005 6:28:08 PM ***

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Friday, January 14, 2005 6:34 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar LOL! I'm sure she didn't. :)

You make valid points. Heck, I'm just trying to see it from the other side. We came in with intentions of crossing the line into Cranberry (and even considered Beaver County) but ended up in Allegheny - mostly because of distance issues. There's a lot to be said for the value of time - that I have to give you.

There are a lot of variables as well. Depending on where you lived in Allegheny, the drive may be about the same (within a few miles). Depending on where in Allegheny you work it may be the same.

Eh, whatever. At any rate a lot of people in the area migrated to southwestern Butler county...

And people in general tend to be morons...

Maybe your numbers do add up. :)

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Friday, January 14, 2005 6:42 PM
Jeff's avatar

For what it's worth, the Tribune Review makes our current president look like a tax-and-spend maniac.
You mean the one that has the worst deficit in history? Come on... every president is accused of that, and they can't spend anything unless Congress approves it. It just depends on whether or not you happen to agree with what the current president likes to spend money on.

Cedar Point beat the parking nonsense because the park is big enough, and has the money to give Sandusky a hard (and expensive) time in court. I doubt that Kennywood could afford do the same thing. I concur with the above statements. I don't know much about the town, but looking around, I don't see how it's money being well spent.

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Friday, January 14, 2005 6:43 PM
I think the reaons most people overvalue property taxes relative to commuting costs is that the latter are "invisible", while the former are painfully obvious. It's the same reason people don't buy adequate insurance---it's too hard to value it properly.

If I were forced to argue the other side of this poisition in a debate, I'd bring in schools. Pgh city schools are horrible---I can't think of a single CMU/CS or WPIC faculty member I knew who lived in the city and sent their kids to public schools. That's a good $6-$15K per year per kid, depending on where you are sending them (The catholic schools are the low end, Winchester Thurston is the high end.). You save some because your house in the city is cheaper than it is in, say, Fox Run (by a large margin), but you can later sell that Fox Run house and retire to Florida, living large. That's likely to be harder if you are unloading your large victorian in Squi'll.

Edit: Jeff, that was an attempt at sarcasm. The T-R editorial position seems to be that all taxes are inherently evil. Not unlike the position of some presidents.

*** This post was edited by Brian Noble 1/14/2005 6:47:19 PM ***

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