Officials discuss revisions for tax-abatement program
Unlike municipalities and school districts, the county relies solely on property taxes, Vogler said.
By VIRGINIA ROSS
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County commissioners agree they favor revising the county's tax-abatement program to eliminate tax breaks for new commercial construction.
At their caucus Thursday, commissioners said comments received at a recent public hearing on the matter reinforced their view that the 20-year-old program, which provides tax breaks for new commercial and industrial construction, is no longer needed for new commercial construction.
Additionally, they said they are also looking at revising the program as it applies to industrial sites. "Philosophically, I believe everyone has a responsibility to pay taxes," said Commissioner Chairman Dan Vogler.
Vogler proposed a gradual tax-relief system for new industrial construction that would require property tax payments to be made to the county as follows: 25 percent the first year; 50 percent the second year; 75 percent the third year; and finally, 100 percent by the fourth year.
With a structure such as this, something would be paid, he said.
He again noted that where municipalities and school districts throughout the county have money from wage taxes available to them, the county relies solely on property taxes.
What others said
On Thursday, Commissioner Steve Craig said he would support such a revision. Commissioner Ed Fosnaught said he would probably support it but would want to be sure commissioners retained the power to grant tax relief to businesses on a case-by-case basis when it would be in the county's best interest to do so.
For the past several weeks, the commissioners have discussed repealing or revising the resolution that governs the county's commercial/industrial tax abatement program. The program allows three-year, 100 percent tax abatements for new commercial and industrial construction.
Commissioners have also discussed modifying the tax-break program. They have said they are concerned the tax-break program is no longer needed and that the county may be missing out on needed tax money from new development.
They agreed to look into developing a program that would allow them to consider tax breaks on a case-by-case basis for new commercial construction, as well as more extensive tax breaks for new industrial construction.
They noted the changes would not affect tax breaks available in Keystone Opportunity Zones, where, under state guidelines, properties may receive 100 percent tax abatements for 12-year periods. Commissioners said they will continue discussing their options but intend to vote on the matter within the next several weeks.