The tax abatement program to retain and attract businesses and electronics recycling were the two main items on the agenda at a joint local government meeting in Greencastle last week.
Elected officials and other representatives of the Borough of Greencastle, Antrim Township and the Greencastle-Antrim School District met Thursday evening in the high school cafeteria, a year and a day after their last joint meeting to discusses issues that affect all three entities. The meeting was discussion only and no action was taken.
The township and the school district are the main players in the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program, while electronics recycling impacts the borough and township.
The local LERTA program was initiated six years ago at the end of the recession to retain and attract businesses, with the first tax break going to Matrix Development for the World Kitchen property.
David Thomas of Matrix was not with the company in 2012, but said he knows the tax abatement was "very meaningful in the decision to stay and maintain the employee base."
Mike Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corp., echoed Thomas' comments about World Kitchen and cited Eldorado Stone and Staples in the warehouse being built by NorthPoint Development as other businesses retained in the area because of the LERTA. Gate 7 and Blaise Alexander also have received tax breaks.
Incentives like LERTA play a significant role in attracting businesses looking to locate along the Interstate 81 corridor, said Fred Young, township supervisor.
Brad Graham, township administrator, said the township was contacted a few weeks ago by a developer asking about the status of LERTA. The existing LERTA was established in 2012 with a seven-year enrollment window. The initial LERTA could be extended or allowed to expire and a new one could be put in place with "any abatement schedule we want."
The current LERTA has a 10-year cycling starting with a 100 percent property tax break the first year and dropping by percentages every ensuing year.
The estimated cost to the district in property taxes has been an estimated $2.2 million, but Dr. Jolinda "JC" Wilson is expected to provide more detailed numbers at an upcoming school board meeting.
The LERTA does not have a direct impact on the township, because it does not have a property tax.
"Our job is to help the commercial tax base. It helps you (the school district) and the county," said Young.
"It's our stretch of ground, but you're the taxing body," Pat Heraty, township supervisor, said. "We're trying to help, but understand if you want to stop ... you have to participate for all the right reasons and we'll support your decision."
"It has been successful to this point," said Young. "We may ask much success do we want."
"LERTA's done a great job to get the ball tolling, but do we need to continue to keep the ball rolling?" asked Tracy Baer, school board president.
"We want growth and revenue to help educate our kids," Baer said. However, she is worried that economic development will bring increased enrollment to a school district already struggling with space and budget.
"What we get from a family in property tax is one-tenth of what it costs to educate a student," added school board member Scott Hart.
Ross said he doesn't think Antrim Commons Business Park, where much of the development has been located, has impacted the number of students.
"The location and quality of the school district make it attractive," Ross said. "LERTA will help create a revenue stream that's only going to grow as days go by."
Electronics recycling is extremely expensive, according to Heraty, who serves on the Franklin County Recycling Committee and works for Waste Management.
Because TVs are now basically disposable, they end up along roads, in yards and on porches if they can't be recycled.
There are costs involved in collection, handling, dismantling and getting electronics to an end market. Nearby Washington Township has struggled for months with how to address electronics at its transfer station and recycling center, first restricting recycling to Franklin County residents, then just township residents with a limit of two TVs at a time. People were circumnavigating the system and, faced with an estimated 30 tons of electronics piled up, the township imposed a two-month moratorium on all electronics recycling in early August.
Chambersburg and Hagerstown both have successful e-recycling days, Heraty said.
Ben Thomas Jr., Greencastle mayor, is manager of Cumberland Township in Adams County, where municipalities bid together for waste collection and there is in optional line item for e-recycling.
"People seem to be willing to pay a few pennies a month more" to be eligible for four drop-off dates, according to Thomas.
Graham said options like local collection days will be examined and presented to the borough and township boards.
"It sounds like the school district already has a smooth-running machine," Graham said.
The district has partnered with Upcycle, a New Jersey company that does free pickup once a year and offers a certificate of destruction, Dwight Bard, director of technology, explained. Other school electronics are leased so the old ones are taken away when the district gets new ones.
Contact Shawn Hardy at email@example.com or 717-597-2164