The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 18, 2014

Settlement results in $22,000 loss in tax revenues

NORTHUMBERLAND — A settlement reached with Viking Energy over reassessing the value of the closed township property will mean a nearly $22,000 loss in tax revenue to Northumberland County, Point Township and Shikellamy School District.

County Chief Assessor Al Bressi explained this week that the former electricity generating plant is now assessed at $166,720. The previous assessment was $353,100.

“It was the best possible deal we could make without going to court,” he said.

Unable to compete with the natural gas industry, the township plant closed in February 2012. Owned by GDF Suez of Texas, Viking Energy operated on Cannery Road since 1988, burning wood products to generate electricity that was supplied to the PPL Utilities grid.

Based on the three taxing bodies’ millage rates, the owners were paying a total property tax bill of $41,644 — $8,568 to the county, $4,483 to the township and $28,593 to the school district.

With the reassessment, the new bill is $19,698 — $4,047 to the county, $2,147 to the township and $13,504 to the school district.

The settlement also includes a total refund of $6,857 — $4,521 from the county and $2,336 from the township.

In 2013, the Viking owners appealed the assessed market value of the property, and the county board of assessment denied their appeal at a hearing in October because not enough information was presented to support their case, Bressi said.

The owners threatened to take the matter to court, so the county made arrangements to visit the closed plant and review the case, he said.

The negotiations took until this month to settle, Bressi said.

The new fair market value is $600,000, down from the previous value of $1.2 million.

The county commissioners voted 2-0 to approve the settlement at Tuesday’s meeting. Commissioner Rick Shoch, who is also the solicitor for Point Township, abstained from voting.

The township and the school district have a right to appeal the new assessed value, Bressi said.

Property owners have until Sept. 1 of every year to appeal the assessed values of their properties.

Property taxes for all properties are based off the assessed values set in 1972, not the market value or purchase price of the buyer, Bressi said.

By law, owners must pay taxes on the assessed value, but they have a right to appeal those values, he said. The appeals board, comprised of Commissioners Vinny Clausi, Stephen Bridy and Shoch, hear each case in October and make a final determination, Bressi said.

The settlements and final determinations will now come to the regular commissioner meetings for a final vote, Bressi said.

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