LOCK HAVEN - The Clinton County commissioners approved changes to a multi-government, tax-abatement program Thursday, in an effort to get all local governments onto the same page.
The commissioners changed their program to mirror the Keystone Central School District's rules governing the business-friendly initiative, and expect the City of Lock Haven to follow suit in short order.
The program called LERTA (Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance) is not the most major tax incentive used to attract business and industry to Clinton County, but local economic officials said it remains a component of a package the Clinton County Economic Partnership offers to potential investors in Clinton County.
Because each municipality sets the rules for the LERTA program, however, LERTA causes some headaches for the county's assessment office, which often has to compare and contrast the various plans before sending out tax notices.
Several months ago, Commissioner Jeff Snyder set upon a series of meetings with other governments in an effort to get everybody to offer one program.
The commissioners took that final step Thursday by adopting an option consistent with the district's program which divides the benefits into two categories, offering industry a 10-year program and commercial and business enterprises a three-year program.
Talk at the city level suggests that council will also adopt this package.
Most of the local governments, including townships, boroughs, Keystone Central School District and Clinton County, have established 10 years as the program length for industry, but differ in the number of years that should be allowed for commercial enterprises. But the school district should be approached to see if it's willing to increase the program length from three years to five years for commercial and retail start-ups.
When it comes to county taxes, the county will lose $106,000 in revenue in 2012 due to LERTA, and a full $95,000 of that is because the massive First Quality complex in Castanea and Lock Haven is participating.
The LERTA program was designed back in 1977 to provide local governments with a way to offer incentives for businesses to build in "blighted" or disadvantaged communities, with a component to encourage job creation.
In the former county version, in all cases, an eligible building is tax-exempt for the first two years, with the amount of tax relief going down 10 percent each year thereafter up to 10 years.
In the new version, 100 percent forgiveness is granted the first year only, and the tax relief goes down 10 percent each year thereafter - with the exception of retail/commercial properties, which receive 100 percent forgiveness the first year, 75 percent the second and 50 percent the third, paying the full amount in subsequent years.
Only newly-constructed buildings qualify for the benefit.