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December 11, 2016
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Tax abatements recommended for Shohola; incentives only for improvements

Michael Sullivan has a plan to increase employment in Shohola and all the other townships in Pike County. Sullivan, the executive director of the Pike County Economic Development Authority, laid out his plans before the Shohola Township Board of Supervisors at its November 8 meeting.

“This county needs to be competitive with its neighboring counties in drawing or increasing businesses to the county,” he said. “I have a plan that is being pursued by many counties in Pennsylvania and New York. It’s called a tax-abatement program, to attract new businesses to the county or encourage new construction by companies that are already here.”

Sullivan gave many reasons for a program like this. “This county has virtually no parcels of desirable commercial or industrial land that are served by such rudimentary services as water, sewer and gas. This is a serious handicap to our efforts to attract jobs here.”

A large majority of county residents have to travel miles to find work, by commuting to places as far away as Long Island, he said. He further reminded board members of the high unemployment rate of the county, which is 9.9%.

“I’m presenting to the townships of this county a most modest proposal similar to the ones that have worked so successfully in neighboring New York State towns—tax relief for businesses that want to come here or expand if they are already here,” he said.

The proposal provides no loss of existing revenue to any municipality. “What it does provide is a tax advantage only on the improvements made by an existing company and on a new employer who wants to come into the county,” he said. “Your income from current property taxes will not be affected or lessened.”

A taxing authority, such as a township or a school district, can opt in or out of the program at any time. “It’s a win-win situation,” he said. He presented a five-year plan of tax abatements on a sliding scale: The first year, there would be a 90% reduction; the second year, an 80% reduction; the third, a 60% reduction; the fourth year, a 40% reduction; the fifth year, a 20% reduction and the sixth year there would be full assessment.

“This is a modest proposal,” Sullivan said. “Some counties in Pennsylvania, like Tioga County, have made the abatement ratios much more deep.”

The program extends to the municipality and school district in which each project is located. Each taxing body must individually approve the abatement for it to apply in its jurisdiction.

Sullivan said the Pike County Commissioners have given their blessing to his efforts, but insist that each municipality must make the decision for itself.

“We will consider this program that seems very attractive,” said George Fluhr, supervisors chairman. “We will definitely get back to you very soon.”