Northampton Press

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

School district makes appeal

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 by PAUL CMIL Special to The Press in School

Advisers challenge properties assessments

Keystone Realty Advisors LLC, acting on behalf of Northampton Area School District, appeared before Northampton County Tax Appeals Board Sept. 25 to challenge assessments of 52 properties.

NASD Board of Education approved resolutions July 15 that may increase tax revenue for the district and help clear the road for a major proposed warehouse in the district.

The school directors’ vote approved Policy 628, which “sets forth the right of the school district to appeal any assessment within its jurisdiction in the same manner, subject to the same procedure and with like effect, as if the appeal were taken by a taxable person with respect to the assessment of that person’s property.”

The ability to update assessments has been on the books for decades, but the challenge is not often done — it is expensive and time consuming.

NASD retained Keystone Realty Advisors LLC, quite possibly on the promise of tax increases of $3 to $4 million. The school district and its advisers filed action on 52 properties to Northampton County Tax Appeals Board. The review came before the board Sept. 25.

The criteria set by NASD was to investigate any assessments that could yield $10,000 in additional taxes.

NASD’s list from the consulting firm listed properties that are in development. As the appeals board pointed out, school taxes cannot be collected on a property before it is built. The appeals board requires an appraisal of the property before taxes can be appealed. The price for a commercial appraisal is a minimum of $2,000 and can quickly move to six digits.

Attorney Raymond Wendolowski, acting on behalf of NASD, opted against the appraisals.

Of the 52 properties presented for appeal, two were in negotiations with the county to determine actual value.

The others were not at a development stage that would warrant a change. For example, the warehouse development approved by Allen Township for JW Development has not gone through the full approval process. It was deemed unnecessary at this point to seek a reassessment because there is nothing yet built on the property. Other property on the list included land reserved for agriculture under the farm preservation program.

Another property on the list is the FedEx Ground hub on Willowbrook Road. Local agencies are working with FedEx to arrive at an agreed tax value. There are complications with this — the state promised assistance, the roads were expanded by the developer, etc.

The FedEx Ground project was sold based on the tax revenues it would bring in.