Companies' tax abatements taper

The current system won't change in Keystone Opportunity Zones.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County commissioners have voted to exclude commercial properties from the county's tax abatement program.
Commissioners also modified the program Tuesday to provide a gradual tax relief system for industrial properties.
Commissioners said the changes resulted, in part, from input received at a public hearing on the issue last month.
With the revisions, industrial properties may receive tax breaks on new construction at 75 percent the first year, 50 percent the second year and 25 percent the third year. Thereafter, the real estate taxes must be paid at 100 percent.
Commissioners explained the changes do not impact tax breaks available to businesses and industries located in Keystone Opportunity Zones, where, under state guidelines, properties may receive 100 tax abatements for 12-year periods.
The county adopted a resolution in 1985 that provided three-year, 100-percent abatements on new commercial or industrial construction.
However, the county's current commissioners have said the tax breaks are unnecessary, and they feel all businesses and industries should pay at least a portion of their real estate taxes.
They also have noted that while municipalities and school districts throughout the county have money from wage taxes available to them, the county relies solely on property taxes.
Food distribution
In other news, commissioners are looking into finalizing an agreement with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to provide free commodities to eligible county residents. The agreement -- pending approval of the state Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Food Distribution and the county solicitor -- calls for the county to move from a food voucher distribution system to a food distribution program.
Commissioners said they are hoping to work with the food bank to provide more food to a greater number of people more often. They anticipate beginning the new program early next year.

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