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Economic development tax incentive program in limbo in Washington Twp.

March 19, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — The future of a new tax abatement program in the Waynesboro area remains in limbo after several hours of discussion Monday.

The Washington Township (Pa.) Supervisors held the first public hearing about a proposed Local Economic Revitalization Tax Abatement (LERTA) program. Washington Township is partnering with the Borough of Waynesboro, Quincy Township and the Waynesboro Area School District to develop the program.

If a LERTA program is put in place locally, eligible industrial or commercial property owners could receive tax savings for 10 years after making improvements to their properties. The tax savings would be only on the improved portions of the properties.

The Washington Township Supervisors started their hearing Monday with a list of about 70 township properties eyed to be part of LERTA zones. Many of those properties ended up on the chopping block as the board determined they were viable for investments without the LERTA incentive.

The supervisors chose to refine their list and vote on LERTA in coming weeks.

“I just don’t want any misunderstandings,” Supervisor William Conrad said of the importance of clarifying properties on the list.

Supervisor Stephen Kulla said he worries that properties eligible for LERTA will have an unfair advantage over businesses not in the approved zones.

“You’re helping somebody at the same time you’re hurting someone competitively,” he said.

A property owner not in a LERTA zone can ask later to be accepted into the program, according to representatives of the Franklin County (Pa.) Area Development Corp. and Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc.

LERTA only affects improved portions of properties. 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.

“It’s an economic development tool designed to facilitate investment. It’s one more economic development tool we can use as we attract businesses to the community,” L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., said at the meeting.

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