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Waynesboro-area panel forming to study tax abatement program

Franklin County (Pa.) Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross told the Waynesboro Area School Board more about LERTA zones last week

December 11, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — A committee is forming to develop the framework necessary for Waynesboro-area government entities to adopt a tax abatement program designed to spur economic growth.

Representatives of the Borough of Waynesboro, Washington Township and the Waynesboro Area School District will be a part of the committee that will work on a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Abatement, or LERTA, program.

If a LERTA program is put in place locally, eligible industrial or commercial property owners could receive tax savings for a period of time after making improvements to their properties. New LERTA zones were recently approved in the nearby Greencastle, Pa., area.

Franklin County (Pa.) Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross told the Waynesboro Area School Board more about LERTA zones last week.

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“We believe a LERTA could bring investment to properties like Wharf Road” Industrial Park, Ross said.

Ross called the Waynesboro area a “viable community,” but said it might not always be considered by businesses looking for a new location. He blamed the distance to Interstate 81, saying Greencastle, Chambersburg, Pa., and Shippensburg, Pa., are better positioned.

Potential tax abatement through LERTA could provide an incentive to companies, Ross said.

Under LERTA, for example, if $100,000 worth of improvements are made on a $200,000 property, the owner could only pay full real estate taxes on the $200,000 — not $300,000 — for several years.

“You can create a district where you’re looking to stimulate development, and you can give those property owners a certain amount of time to apply for the benefits. ... It makes the most sense if all the taxing authorities are using the same schedule for abatement,” Ross said.

Waynesboro Area School Board member Ed Wilson encouraged members of the newly forming LERTA committee to consider including Quincy Township, where he lives.

“We need as many jobs around here as we can get,” he said.

Pennsylvania’s LERTA initiatives started in 1977, then were changed in the 1980s, according to Ross. They are designed as a stimulus to create jobs, he said.

“It’s important to recognize ... that LERTA districts are created by municipalities. They are not created by the county, nor are they created by school districts,” Ross said.

Waynesboro Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said he recently talked to a potential investor who asked what types of incentives the borough has.

LERTA “could be that advantage for somebody to locate in the borough or township. We have to think of ways to entice development,” he said.

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