The owners of more than four dozen real estate parcels in the Bethlehem Area School District may soon be facing a reassessment that will hike their property tax bills.
The school board voted 8-1 Monday night to begin a process that could -- according to the schools superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy -- net up to an extra $2 million a year in revenue for the district.
Roy also told board members that if the district already had that extra $2 million, the 4.8 percent tax increase they approved in June as part of the 2012-13 budget could have been limited to 3.3 percent.
Board member Irene Follweiler cast the only no vote, but she didn't give a reason why.
The list of 50 properties approved by the board was put together by Keystone Realty Advisors of Haddonfield, N.J. The board hired Keystone in February to find properties that were undervalued either because their assessments were outdated, or because the property owners had the financial and legal resources to keep their assessments low.
The list put together by Keystone includes properties owned by several familiar business names -- pharmacy chains CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens; convenience store operators Turkey Hill and Wawa, and hotel chains Marriott, Hampton Inn, Best Western, Hyatt and Holiday Inn. Several parcels that are part of apartment complexes are also on the list.
Roy said the assessments of those on the list will be appealed to Northampton County before the Aug. 1 deadline. He said after the meeting that he expected some reassessments to be done quickly, but that other could take years.
In other business, the board heard from Kay Mulligan, who said she opposed allowing district employees who are part of a same-sex marriage sanctioned by another state to add their spouse to their district health insurance plan.
The board announced the new benefit last month.
"What floodgates may be opened to expand this benefit to others?" asked Mulligan, a retired senior citizen who said she's been a district resident for 36 years.
Mulligan said she and her husband are having trouble keeping up with all the tax increases passed by the school board, the city and the county. "We seniors cannot afford all of your whims and demands," she told the board. "Leave the social injustice initiatives to the churches and the social service agencies."