Cambria County OKs tax exemptions

PATTON — The Cambria County commissioners approved an ordinance Wednesday that would give certain blighted, under-utilized industrial, commercial and business properties in Johnstown property tax exemptions.

The real estate tax exemption would encourage economic development in a particular area of the city, Michele Clapper, JARI vice president of economic development, said at Wed­nesday’s meeting.

If the ordinance passes, deteriorated businesses in the Moxham district through the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assist­ance Act would be eligible. Those eligible include North American Hoganas, Cam­Tran, GapVax, Johnstown Specialty Casting, Moxham Lumber and properties along Central Avenue.

“The existing property tax would remain in place,” Clapper said of LERTA. “But if a business does an improvement that would change the assessed value, it’s that change that is incrementally phased in.”

The abatement period would last 10 years. The first two years, 100 percent of the assessment increment would be abated for eligible properties. Eighty percent would be abated for years three and four, 60 percent for years five and six, 40 percent for years seven and eight and 20 percent for the last two years.

The city, county and school district have to approve the LERTA ordinance. Both the city and school district approved prior to the county commissioners’ approval Wed­nesday, Clapper noted.

“This is good news for the city of Johnstown. Moxham area and Cambria County,” Commissioner Thomas Chernisky said. “This is actually good news for the entire region because businesses stay and grow and hire people and retain people.”

There is a business that will invest a significant amount into its already existing business, creating jobs, added Commissioner Mark Wissinger.

“It’s not like you’re giving up existing taxes,” Wissinger said of LERTA. “The future taxes will also be coming in, but they will be phased in over a period of time. So it’s a pretty good idea.”

Cambria County joined Bedford County in the $50,000 broadband study grant agreement this week, with approval for a county match of $6,250. The study would also include Blair, Fayette, Fulton, Hunting­don, Somerset and Westmoreland counties and help counties develop a business plan model for expanding broadband.

Wissinger said adding fiber optics along the turnpike is an idea on the table to increase broadband in rural areas.

The commissioners also approved an additional $10,200 for emergency management for the 2018 fiscal year. The additional funding is for sponsoring classes and training for volunteers.

The county has paid off its $10 million tax anticipation note early, according to Kristine Segear from the controller’s office.

This is the third year the county has paid off its note early, saving the taxpayers about $300,000, Chernisky said.

Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.