School board hears numbers connected to tax abatements

Shawn Hardy

The growth around Exit 3 of Interstate 81 and U.S. 11 is evident to anyone driving by. Thursday night, Greencastle-Antrim School Board members learned what that growth means in terms of dollars as discussion continued concerning the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program.

The seven-year enrollment period for the existing LERTA ends in 2019 and the board has started talking about what to do next. The LERTA offers tax cuts for 10 years to attract development, with a 100 percent abatement the first year, declining in 10 percent increments annually.

The future of LERTA was brought up a board meeting earlier this month and also was one of the topics of the Sept. 13 joint meeting with Greencastle Borough Council and the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors.

Dr. Jolinda "JC" Wilson, the school district's chief financial officer, presented numbers based on the 2018-19 property tax rate of 109.84 mills for four of the five properties receiving tax incentives: Matrix (World Kitchen), Gate 7, Blaise Alexander and Eldorado Stone.

From the first enrollment of Gate 7 in 2014-15 through the end of the LERTA for Blaise Alexander and Eldorado Stone in 2028-29, the district will have received $1,768,831 in taxes while abating $2,161,892, for a total of $3,930,712.

The figures do not include NorthPoint Development warehouse for which the LERTA begins in 2018-19.

The LERTA was put in place to encourage economic development and compete with incentives offered by Maryland and West Virginia in 2012 at the end of the recession.

Questions have included whether the development would have occurred without the LERTA and whether the development will continue if there is not a LERTA. School board members also have worried continued development will mean more students for a district already strapped for space and funds.

"We have to build to make a decision or it will just run out," said school board member Eric Holtzman, who said options include:

  • Let it run out.
  • Renew the LERTA for three years at a time.
  • Initiate a new one
  • Change the LERTA and its time frame.

 Antrim Commons Business Park 

Wilson also gave the board numbers of the Antrim Commons Business Park, being developed by ATAPCO, which includes some of the LERTA properties and other businesses, including Sheetz and the future Greencastle Health Services. Property taxes of $19,417 in 2012 climbed to $450,888 in 2018.

"Perini (Construction) held onto it for many years then sold it to ATAPCO, which held onto it for many years. The development started with the LERTA. Is that a coincidence?" asked Holtzman.

In addition, the sale of six properties in the area generated $445,053 in real estate transfer taxes.

The real estate transfer tax is money the district would not have received without the development of the business park.

"Obviously, we're not going to solve it tonight," Holtzman said.

Board member Mike Still said LERTA will remain on the school board's agenda and it would be good to hear what the public thinks about it.