SHAMOKIN — The city of Shamokin will soon have a new tool in the fight against blight.

The Northumberland County commissioners approved the city to take advantage of the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act (LERTA), which establishes tax exemption for property tax for certain deteriorated properties. The city of Shamokin approved the ordinance in December and the Shamokin Area School Board will consider it at the next public meeting on Jan. 19.

"It's another tool in our toolbox to attract investors," said SEDA-Council of Government's revitalization coordinator Betsy Kramer, based in Shamokin. "Will this piece alone bring them in? Probably not, but combined with other tools, this will be a good benefit."

LERTA allows commercial and residential property owners to be exempt for three years from increased property taxes when they invest $50,000 or more on a property. In the fourth year, 70 percent of the new assessed value is exempt; in the fifth year, it's 60 percent; and then after 10 years, they pay the full tax value.

The first three years of a business is the most crucial and difficult, said Kramer.

"We want to lighten the load and put money into the area," said Kramer. "They put a whole lot of money into the building and they're hit with taxes."

The application process is for new construction and renovations. The LERTA is applied for when an owner applies for building permits. The Shamokin Economic Development Authority will review each LERTA application, she said.

Other tools are Shamokin Area Businesses for Economic Revitalization (SABER), the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, a federal opportunity zones, a Keystone Innovation Zone and "a city council willing to take risks," said Kramer.

Mayor John Brown said LERTA is another way to bring new business into Shamokin.

"Unfortunately, these people don't see a return in their investment for years down the road," said Brown. "One of the first things that happen when they make improvements, their taxes double, triple or quadruple."

Northumberland County Commissioner Chairman Sam Schiccatano said this incentive will help Shamokin.

Commissioner Kymberley Best said she is a "big supporter" of LERTA.

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