Meadville Tribune

April 24, 2013

Bloomfield Township looks for housing tax help from county

By Konstantine Fekos
Meadville Tribune

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Supervisors in Bloomfield Township are looking to Crawford County Board of Commissioners for financial investment in support of a tax abatement plan for new construction or renovations to residential property.

Supervisors Christopher Brenner and Daniel Gourley attended the commissioners’ work session Tuesday morning, presenting a Local Economic Revitalization and Tax Assistance (LERTA) plan, revised after the commissioners’ decision to disapprove it late last year.

The LERTA would reduce property taxes on renovated or commercial buildings for a five-year period.

Taxes would be abated at 100 percent the first year; 80 percent the second; 60 percent the third; 40 percent the fourth; and 20 percent the fifth, with 100 percent collected the sixth year and beyond.

“You would see a return on your investment in five years,” Brenner told commissioners on Tuesday.

If a building is renovated, the real estate taxes on the valuation before the renovation took place still would be collected during the five-year period; or if a property was vacant, the tax value of the vacant land still would be collected during the five-year period.

“This LERTA is a little different than what you normally see,” said county commissioner Jack Lynch, referring to the majority of LERTAs which do not allow for residential property tax exemptions. “The only recourse, I believe, is to break the area down into specific parcels. That could be challenged.”

Bloomfield supervisors determined the entire Bloomfield Township area to be deteriorated after a public hearing late last year and plan to offer tax breaks as an incentive for new construction and economic revitalization.

Commissioners argued township officials couldn’t make a case for deterioration across the township, stating certain areas, including Canadohta Lake, showed little signs of deterioration, if any.

“The LERTA wasn’t made for the rich to take a tax break,” county commissioner C. Sherman Allen said.

Brenner and Gourley maintained the LERTA would not differentiate rich or poor taxpayers under their plan. It would provide a greater incentive to construct new homes or rehabilitate existing properties, they said.

Brenner also mentioned that Bloomfield doesn’t qualify for federal funding or grant money through programs like the Community Development Block Grant.

“This is an all-in proposition,” Lynch said. “The (Union Township) municipalities and school board all have to agree on this plan for the program to be in effect.”

Commissioners generally disagreed with the residential aspects of the plan, carried over from their disapproval last year. They maintained their support of a LERTA program for commercial and industrial properties as a tool for community development.

“This plan seems contradictory on its face,” Lynch said. “It seems the only way to do it is to exempt certain areas, which would be difficult. Otherwise, they would have to redo the language and make an amendment.”



Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kfekos@meadvilletribune.com.