Will patience pay off for the Easton Area School District?
School board members are banking on a special tax zone to turn blighted properties into potential cash cows.
But the change isn't going to happen overnight.
The properties are part of a newly created Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone. The hope is by giving tax breaks to businesses locating in the zone, it will mean more tax revenue in 10 years.
The properties aren't always appealing to the eye, but some see a potential money maker.
"We're doing what we have to do now, but we're looking for the future to add revenue without going to the taxpayers,” said Frank Pintabone, president of the Easton Area School Board.
Fifteen properties on the Easton Area School District tax roll are now part of a Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone.
Property taxes, business privilege taxes, and earned income taxes will be suspended for 10 years in the zone, starting Jan. 1, 2014.
They're all vacant, blighted properties that will come back on the tax roles eventually,” added Easton Mayor Sal Panto.
"It entices people to come in and bring their businesses into the city, into the community, and in about 10 years we will receive 100 percent of the tax revenues to the district,” said Pintabone.
Some of the properties include the Simon Silk Mill, the Governor Wolf building, and the new city hall and parking garage that are currently under construction on 3rd Avenue.
"Most of them have plans already and they have developers assigned to them but not committed,” said Panto.
Development includes retail, restaurant and some residential, although not enough residential to drain resources from an already financially strapped school district.
"We're not too worried about a huge influx of children coming into our district, but the money will be greater, and that will help take the burden away from the taxpayers,” said Pintabone.
Panto said he's already had inquiries about businesses opening across the street from the new city hall, which he said means the tax zone is working because more small business owners are looking at opening in non-KOEZ locations and adding tax revenue to the books.