Lehigh Valley

Easton Council holding hearing on tax abatement program

Current LERTA expires, must be renewed

EASTON, Pa. - The City of Easton is holding a public hearing Wednesday, Dec. 13, for its proposed 2018 LERTA program at its regular city council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

A Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program, or LERTA, is a partial tax abatement on the increased value of residential, commercial or industrial properties over a 10-year period. 

The percentage increases over time, but Easton property owners would initially pay 10 percent of taxes on improved property values.

Easton’s current LERTA has reached its 10-year life span, and a new program must be approved.  

The expiring map shows a LERTA zone covering a swath of Northampton Street from downtown stretching into the West Ward. The 2018 LERTA zone would replace the current one with an updated property listing covering a smaller range of the city.

“Now you can be more targeted, because a lot of buildings can be done,” said Mayor Sal Panto. “Why would you keep (already improved buildings) in the program and make it look like you didn’t do much?”

Properties on the 2018 list will include an old textile mill, the Easton Iron & Metal properties, a vacant nightclub and the Pine Street Garage. The plan will also include Family Dollar, on the corner of Easton’s Center Square, the Lafayette Hotel and South Side’s Black Diamond site.

LERTA approvals face a three-step approval process. The tax program faces its first hurdle at city level. If approved, Easton officials will take their proposal to the school district and, finally, to the county.

Northampton County officials had expressed concern over Bethlehem’s LERTA because the zone didn’t show a high success rate when assessed by percentage of property. Easton, which has thus far categorized large chunks of downtown as LERTA zones, now has a different approach, targeting individual properties deemed underutilized or vacant.

A targeted approach gives everyone involved a better idea of the program’s success, Panto said.

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