The overall value of Luzerne County’s real estate tax base decreased since June because new construction growth did not overcome losses from property assessment reductions, a review of county records shows.
Taxable property countywide totaled $20.19 billion in the most recent November snapshot reading — a decrease of $1.47 million since June.
Assessments declined in 57 of the county’s 76 municipalities during the period.
Hazleton suffered the greatest loss of 1.21 percent. The city’s tax base decreased $11.89 million, leaving a new total value of $968.75 million.
Duryea was next in line, losing $2.5 million, or 0.96 percent, followed by Plymouth, which experienced a 0.90 percent reduction of $1.46 million in assessed value.
After Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre sustained the greatest dollar loss — $8 million. That decline was 0.57 percent because Wilkes-Barre’s tax base is around $1.4 billion.
The other municipalities that lost more than 0.5 percent of their value since June, along with the amounts of their tax base reductions: Conyngham, $781,000; Dorrance Township, $1.06 million; Franklin Township, $832,700; Jeddo, $18,400; Nanticoke, $2.3 million; Nescopeck Township, $504,500; Penn Lake Park, $321,600; West Pittston, $1.3 million; and Wyoming, $915,500.
Declines less than 0.5 percent occurred in these municipalities since June: Ashley, Avoca, Dallas, Dupont, Exeter, Edwardsville, Forty Fort, Freeland, Hughestown, Kingston, Laflin, Larksville, Luzerne, Nuangola, Pringle, Shickshinny, Swoyersville, Sugar Notch, Warrior Run, West Hazleton, West Wyoming, White Haven, Bear Creek Village and the townships of Black Creek, Bear Creek, Buck, Conyngham, Exeter, Fairmount, Foster, Hazle, Hollenback, Hunlock, Huntington, Jackson, Jenkins, Kingston, Lake, Lehman, Plymouth, Plains, Pittston, Ross and Slocum.
Nescopeck borough’s tax base stayed the same.
Reductions that pulled down tax bases were granted by the county assessment appeals board or through court-level settlements.
For example, Interfaith Heights Associates received a $1 million reduction through settlement in October for its apartment complex on 13.79 acres on Coal Street in Wilkes-Barre.
The property’s assessment is now $3.8 million.
Because reductions are retroactive to the year appeals were filed, the county refunded Interfaith a total $22,106 from 2013 through 2016.
Other big-ticket commercial court-level settlements in recent months, according to online county manager postings and county records:
• 315 Realty Corp.’s commercial warehouse and parking lot on 4.63 acres on Route 315 in Plains Township was reduced from $1.05 million to $500,000. The county paid a $3,350 refund for 2016.
• A convenience store and car wash on 0.74 acre at 94 S. Pennsylvania Ave. in Wilkes-Barre was reduced from $875,000 to $695,000, resulting in a $1,014 county refund for 2016 to the property owner, Commercial Net Lease Realty Trust.
• The FedEx building on 1.23 acres on Schecter Drive in Wilkes-Barre Township was reduced from $2.3 million to $1.95 million. The county refunded the property owner — Merlyns Quest LLC — a total $7,836 for 2013 through 2016.
Hanover Township topped the 18 municipalities experiencing tax base growth since June, with a 6.35 percent increase amounting to $39.7 million that boosted its total assessment to $664.88 million.
This increase is directly linked to a new complex occupied by online pet supply retailer Chewy.com, which has been assessed at $37.96 million.
While this property must remain coded as taxable in county records, it has Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) tax exemption through 2024 and an 80 percent discount on real estate taxes on new construction in 2025 and 2026 under a different incentive program.
Sugarloaf Township’s tax base increased $4 million, or 1 percent, since June.
The municipalities with growth over 0.5 percent, along with the increased amounts: Dennison Township, $502,100; Laurel Run, $152,900; New Columbus, $90,200; and Pittston, $1.4 million.
Those with increases under 0.5 percent: Courtdale, Harveys Lake, Yatesville and the townships of Butler, Dallas, Fairview, Newport, Rice, Salem, Union, Wright and Wilkes-Barre.
The county spent $412,265 on assessment refunds this year to date through October, said county Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz.
Council’s 2018 budget earmarked $550,000 for refunds, which is the same as the 2017 amount.
While the tax base decreased overall since June, it is still ahead $35.7 million compared to November 2016, when the value was $20.16 billion.
An increase of $35.7 million equates to $213,483 in additional county tax revenue.
Next year’s county budget projects a $700,000 increase from the addition of property to the tax rolls due to new construction and the expiration of Keystone Opportunity Zones or other tax breaks.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.