Penn-Trafford school board open to tax incentive

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Although the Penn-Trafford school board has expressed support for offering tax incentives to spur development of blighted areas in Penn Township, it decided Monday to first get public input on the matter before putting it up for a formal vote.

At its meeting last week, board members said they would favor the township's plans to reinstitute a program offering tax abatement over a three-year period for development in certain areas of the community. The program would be offered through the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act, or LERTA.

The township commissioners are currently considering offering a LERTA incentive for the privately owned Bushy Run Corporate Park near the intersection of Route 130 and Pleasant Valley Road. The park, which has been under development since the early 2000s, has not yet reached full occupancy.

Under a LERTA, a tax abatement is staggered over a period of years for new development. The property owner continues to pay the original tax assessment but is given time to incorporate the new tax assessment of the property due to the improvements.

Toni Ising, chairwoman of the school board, called for input from the board after school board member Dallas Leonard said it would be nice to immediately give the township commissioners some indication on how the school district felt on the proposal.

Director Nick Petrucci said he was in favor of the abatement program because it was key to the successful development of the Westmoreland County Industrial Park III in the 1980s.

But, at its meeting Monday, the board decided it must first hold a public hearing on the LERTA before taking a formal vote.

Superintendent Matt Harris said a public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. May 7, prior to the school board's caucus meeting. He said the township commissioners will attend the hearing.

In other business, the school board continues to debate whether to transfer some of the funding it gives to the Trafford Community Library to the Manor library. The board has been considering realigning its library assistance since last year when it learned that far fewer district students were registered at the Trafford library compared with the number registered at Manor, according to a report from the Westmoreland County Federated Library System.

However, Nancy Gresko, executive director of the Westmoreland County Federated Library, said the numbers were reported incorrectly.

"The error occurred because the first statistical report was based on the patron code of ‘Juvenile,’" Ms. Gresko wrote   to Trafford librarian Sharon Peacock. "The Trafford library does not use that patron code. In place of 'Juvenile,' the library used the patron code of 'Student,' hence the discrepancy."

Ms. Gresko said the actual number of juveniles registered at the Trafford library is 231, according to system logs, but the number of students who use the library could be higher.

"According to the 2010 Census, there are 604 children below the age of 18 in Trafford Borough. Therefore, it is possible that you are actually serving 373 more children than the statistics show," she wrote.

Linda Metz, freelance writer:

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