LERTA, reassessment both are needed to bolster tax base

There is general agreement among local public officials that the Lycoming County tax base – particularly in the city – would benefit greatly from increased commercial and public development.

And there also is a consensus that Lycoming County is overdue for a property tax reassessment to make certain all properties in the county are being fairly assessed in accordance with the fair market values of 2018.

The Williamsport Area School Board backed both initiatives last week and became the third and final necessary public body to approve extension of the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) program.

The LERTA program authorizes abatement of real estate taxes for the value of improvements to properties in three designated commercial/business zoning districts of Williamsport. The abatement is on a seven-year schedule and abates taxes on the value of improvements, but not on the assessed value of the property prior to the improvements.

The taxes are reduced on a declining schedule starting at 100 percent the first two years, 75 percent in years three and four, 50 percent in the fifth and sixth year and 25 percent the seventh year.

The point is to reward commercial and business developers for improvements, upgrades and expansion of properties.

Those things are generally part of a business/commercial acquisition.

The end result is an active, revitalized property that results in employment and, at the end of the day, expansion of the tax base.

The program has a proven track record of several decades for the city of Williamsport, Lycoming County and the Williamsport Area School District.

Part of the validity of the program rests with a property reassessment that assures that the values of properties locally are legitimate and fair.

In giving the necessary third approval to the LERTA program, school board officials emphasized the need for the countywide reassessment of properties for the LERTA initiative to have a full impact.

We could not agree more. Given local circumstances, the extension of the LERTA program is a no-brainer.