Warren County Commissioner Ben Kafferlin speaks to the school board on Oct. 9, 2023. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

School Board Tables LERTA, Landbank Resolutions Following Clarification from Commissioners

October 11, 2023

RUSSELL, Pa. – A miscommunication during committee meetings last month will delay the school board from taking action on the Warren County Landbank and LERTA until at least Nov. 6.

Prior to the Sept. 25 committee meetings, Warren County Commissioner Ben Kafferlin addressed the Warren County School District Board of Directors regarding the county’s landbank and Local Economic Revitalization and Tax Assistance (LERTA) programs. During that nearly hour-long discussion, Kafferlin made a comment that the LERTA would prevent a tax increase from going into effect “for 10 years.”

The WCSD held a public hearing Monday night prior to its regular Board of Directors meeting. During that meeting, Kafferlin was joined by fellow Commissioner Jeff Eggleston, who clarified that Warren County’s LERTA program is only for five years, not 10.

“I would highly encourage you to pass the 5-year 100% LERTA program as it was presented,” Eggleston said. “Mostly because a huge amount of work went into negotiating with municipalities to get into that place.”

The municipalities that have already agreed to the LERTA are Glade, Limestone, Pleasant, Sheffield, Conewango (residential only), Cherry Grove, Tidioute, Youngsville, Clarendon, Watson, and Pine Grove.

Board member Arthur Stewart asked both Eggleston and Kafferlin to confirm that the county’s LERTA is only for five years. Both confirmed, and Eggleston said the county would have to renegotiate with each municipality if the district moved forward with a 10-year resolution.

“Somehow we got on to a 10-year discussion at the Finance Committee,” Stewart said. “I don’t know if that was my mishearing . . .  it doesn’t make a difference how it unfolded, the simple fact is it unfolded. And pursuant to that Chris drafted exactly as we asked, and now we’re faced with hearing context by the commissioner saying, ‘Gosh, we have to go back to 14 municipalities to get it changed. To go to your 10-year proposal.’ And what we’re hearing from you in this hearing is a desire that we scaled back the 10-year proposal, doing a less aggressive 5-year proposal.”

Part of the district’s resolution under the 10-year plan was to give 80% tax abatement to residential properties for the first five years, and 40% for the final five years. By going to a 100% abatement over five years, the district would actually gain some tax revenue.

“My spreadsheet tells me that if the tax is $10,000 normally, that would be a total of $4,000 in taxes,” Stewart said. “And if you compare that with what you’re asking for on a residential abatement, the total will be $5,000. So the school district is once again, being more generous than what you (the commissioners) have laid out in your testimony.”

“And to that point, I would ask that you continue that generous line and sign on to the county’s 5-year 100% program so that all municipalities can trigger it immediately and move forward,” Eggleston responded.

When the items came before the board during its regular meeting agenda, Stewart made motions to table each resolution (landbank and LERTA) “until the next public meeting following the Finance Committee meeting.” Both motions to table passed unanimously.

The next Finance Committee meeting is scheduled for Oct. 23, and the next public meeting is scheduled for Nov. 6.

      

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