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Target 11 investigates school district tax collections



Target 11 is on the trail of hundreds of deadbeat taxpayers.  A local school district say it’s owed nearly $4 million in back taxes.

And Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle discovered that the district is hoping humiliation will convince taxpayers to come forward and clean the slate.

Nearly $80,000 in delinquent real estate taxes is owed on a boarded up apartment building in Brackenridge.  $25,000 is due on a recently closed nursing home in Tarentum, and $50 is outstanding on a vacant lot also in Tarentum. 

The owners of the properties are among the approximately 1,000 names listed in a brand new tax pamphlet that owe the Highlands School district a grand total of $4 million.

The 15-page pamphlet of names, listing the tax scofflaws, will be included in the local newspaper later this month for everyone to see.

“So the public shaming, the proposition of it appears to have worked? “ Earle asked Highlands School District Business Manager Jon Rupert.

“Yeah, and you know we all have hard times, and it’s not necessarily wanting to shame, but I think people want to let them know, 'Hey you got to be accountable.  We are all responsible,'" Rupert told Earle.

The district announced the plan six months ago and gave taxpayers the chance to pay up and avoid the embarrassment of seeing their name in the paper.   Since then, 149 residents stepped up and signed payment plans.  The district hopes to collect $800,000 from those taxpayers during the next three years. 

Target 11 got an advance copy of the delinquent taxpayer pamphlet.  We went through the list and one name stuck out to us. 

“You’re not trying to avoid the taxes?” asked Earle.

“We’re not hiding anything,” said Carl Magnetta, the longtime mayor of Tarentum. 

Magnetta and his wife are on the list.  They owe nearly $10,000 in back taxes on a building in Tarentum that housed her ceramic shop. 

They closed the business about a year and a half ago because of declining sales, and they’ve been trying to sell it since then.

“We have the building for sale.  As soon as the building is sold, the taxes will be all paid.   Yeah it's embarrassing, but at the same time we will get over it, “said Magnetta, who pointed out that all of the taxes on his home are up to date. 

The Highlands School District tells Target 11 that about a third of the delinquent properties are abandoned and of no use. The others will be sold at sheriff’s sale if the taxes are not paid up in full. 

Residents who do pay their taxes on time support the district’s efforts to collect the outstanding taxes.

“I think it's a good idea.  If you got the warning, then you should have stepped up and paid the taxes," said homeowner Jay Eiler of Brackenridge. 

In addition to publishing the names in the local newspaper, the district also plans to post all the names on the school district's website for all to see.   The only way to get the names of the website is to come into the office and settle the outstanding debt.

The district also tells us that residents who signed the payment agreement and miss a payment may be considered for immediate sheriff’s sale.