County tax base grows; largest percentage gains in Nanticoke, Laurel Run

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -

Luzerne County has picked up $33 million in taxable property since January, with the largest percentage growth in Laurel Run and Nanticoke, a review of assessment records shows.

The increases in both municipalities did not stem from new construction. Instead, large tax-exempt properties were sold, triggering their taxation, records show.

In Laurel Run, the new taxation of the Clearbrook Manor treatment center was the primary driver for a 10.84 percent tax base increase.

Sold to the Florida-based Banyan Sober Living for $7.06 million in March, the Clearbrook property is assessed at $2.67 million.

The addition boosted the borough’s tax base to $26.7 million.

Nanticoke’s tax base grew 3.47 percent, or $12.5 million, due to taxation of the former Nanticoke State Hospital, which is assessed around that amount, records show.

However, it’s unclear if this assessment will stick because the new owner has filed an appeal contesting the value, according to the county assessor’s office.

New Jersey-based Healthy Lifestyle of Bayside LLC bought the property on 3.1 acres for $37,501 at the end of 2017, the deed says.

The property had been tax-exempt under the ownership of the state and Newport Aggregate Inc., county records show.

Pittston Township ranked third in tax base growth during the six-month period, with an increase of $10.3 million, or 2.17 percent.

While 46 municipalities added value, 28 experienced tax base decline due to assessment challenge reductions or demolition, the review shows.

Jeddo and Bear Creek Village, the remaining municipalities, had no assessment change.

Declining values

Exeter topped the municipalities on the losing end, with a reduction of $4.9 million, or 1.7 percent.

A major contributor was a $5.06 million assessment reduction granted for Keystone Automotive Operations Inc.’s warehouse and office on Slocum Street in the borough, records show. The value was lowered from $11.45 million to $6.385 million based on the company’s argument it had been too high, officials said.

Shickshinny had the second highest decrease — 1.06 percent, or $259,300 — followed by Wilkes-Barre Township, which lost $4.1 million in assessed value, or 0.76 percent.

Jenkins Township’s base decreased by $2.17 million, but the percentage was a lower 0.51 percent because it is larger than Shickshinny. Jenkins was left with $426.6 million in taxable property, while the base is $24 million in Shickshinny.

Highest base

Hazle Township reinforced its lead position, adding $783,000 for a new base of $1.49 billion.

The municipality surpassed Wilkes-Barre’s historic hold on the highest tax base in 2016.

Township officials have largely credited continued expansion at the Humboldt Industrial Park off Interstate 81 and the Hazleton Area School District’s aggressive pursuit of reverse appeals seeking increases on commercial and industrial properties it maintains are valued too low.

Wilkes-Barre, the county seat, lost ground during the period, with a decrease of $1 million, or 0.07 percent.

The city’s new assessment total: $1.407 billion.

After factoring in the ups and downs, the net overall countywide increase of $33 million brings the county tax base to $20.24 billion. The increase equates to $196,834 in increased revenue for the county.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.