When it comes to fighting blight, there can never be too many tools in the toolbox.

Shamokin city officials and those tasked with revitalizing the city now have a new tool after Northumberland County Commissioners approved the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act (LERTA), a program that allows for property tax exemptions for certain deteriorated properties.

City officials approved the ordinance last month. Shamokin school directors will consider it next week.

According to the Small Business Administration, 20 percent of businesses fail in the first year and about half close within five.

LERTA is designed to help reduce those numbers. LERTA provides an exemption for commercial and residential property owners 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.

“It’s another tool in our toolbox to attract investors,” said SEDA-Council of Government’s revitalization coordinator Betsy Kramer. “Will this piece alone bring them in? Probably not, but combined with other tools, this will be a good benefit. We want to lighten the load and put money into the area.”

Dozens of Pennsylvania municipalities are part of the program, from Erie to Reading to Gettysburg. Since July 2019, there have been 129 permits issued for LERTA-designated projects with construction costs of $31.4 million according to goerie.com

LERTA alone might not be the answer, but paired with enticements already in place, it makes Shamokin a more attractive landing spot for developers. 

The Shamokin Area Businesses for Economic Revitalization (SABER), the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, federal opportunity zones, a Keystone Innovation Zone and “a city council willing to take risks,” are all boosting the redevelopment of the coal region town, Kramer said.  

Collectively they are making a difference, a clear personification that everyone is pulling in the right direction. When it comes to battling blight and redeveloping once vibrant communities, that is half the battle.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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