Tuesday, June 23, 2009

PA Tax Free KOZ Hypocrisy

Yet again, the state-wide tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zones have come up for an extension in Pennsylvania.

Local elected officials who comprise three taxing bodies, county, school district, and municipality must weigh agreeing to granting the status to undeveloped properties for this time around some seven (7) years.

Each separate entity must vote on approving the KOZ extension request by voting and a majority of the board can accept or deny.

The important feature of the process is any one of the boards' denial of the extension would effectively gut the extension for the one jurisdiction. Further, if one board - the county commissioners - would deny the extension - even though the school board/s and municipalities approved, the extension would not happen.

Fayette's board of commissioners voted in the majority but not unanimously to enable the application process for the extension to go forward. This week, it's been reported the board will consider a motion to re-consider some of the properties which have KOZ status currently to either expire in 2010 or 2013 and may pull some of the properties from the extension.

South Union Township supervisors have reportedly denied the extension for their own property, some 60 acres, but agreed to grant the extensions so far to property the local economic development organization sought for inclusion in the extension due to its undeveloped status.

But it isn't clear whether developed properties that want to continue to receive the KOZ status after its expiration, such as Duke Energy, a Fortune 500 Company, can obtain the extension, it's interesting that in material distributed by Fay Penn Economic Development Council, the company is listed among requests for the extension.

The question arises then, what is the purpose of continuing the KOZ on already developed and habitable land another 7 years?

The extension is supposed to be for undeveloped properties, but as we've seen how the KOZ has been promoted in the past for industrial development, that goal didn't quite pan out in the county as planned.

Further, if the Fayette commissioners pull some property (qualified and undeveloped at this time) from the extension for whatever reason - don't like it or think KOZ status is appropriate for housing developments, individual single family homes, or apartment complexes, or a private individual or private corporation has obtained the status through diligent application, and members of the board by majority or unanimously deny the extension - what does that say about continuing to permit an extension for other property in the county solely because it is handled by the county's lead economic development agency?

Across the border, in Greene County, supervisors display a bit of common sense in comments made about KOZ and what the state gave them to deal with, yet the members still voted to continue the program they've raised objections to. Give a look.

An upcoming post will highlight the same arguments and some variation used by Fayette commissioners Chairman Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent Vicites who don't like some aspects of KOZ yet still voted for approval of the extension.

Net the Truth Online

In other business, supervisors voted unanimously to support the seven-year Keystone Opportunity Zone extension for the Evergreene Technology Park. The extension would continue the current KOZ tax incentive for an additional seven years, until Dec. 31, 2017. The current KOZ incentive ends Dec. 31, 2010.

The two existing buildings in the technology park are not eligible for the KOZ extension.

The township projects an estimated total of $6,050 of tax revenue in 2011 from the two buildings.

Currently, the technology park has about 220 acres of undeveloped land, which is eligible for the KOZ extension if developed.

Although supervisors John H. Higgens and Corbly Orndorff disagree with the concept of the KOZ and believe the state is overstepping its boundaries by offering this type of incentive, they agree that if surrounding counties are offering a KOZ tax incentive extension to perspective businesses, then Franklin Township and Greene County must do the same to remain competitive.

Supervisors' Chairman T. Reed Kiger told Don Chappel, executive director of Greene County Industrial Development Inc., that he hopes to see collaboration between Evergreene Technology Park officials, the Franklin Township supervisors and other county officials not just for the township's benefit but for the benefit of the entire county.

Kiger also suggested that the park consider businesses in the oil and gas industry, which he believes to be up and coming in Greene County.

Kiger added that the board of supervisors would really like to see the park make changes.

Herald-Standard June 22, 2009

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