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Tyrone Area School Board adopts resolution to remain under KOZ umbrella

Last evening, the Tyrone Area School Board (TASB) unanimously voted 8-0, with board member Amy Stever absent, to adopt a resolution to encourage investment in defined geographical areas of the Tyrone Area School District.
The resolution applies only to undeveloped areas originally approved under the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) through the Altoona Blair County Development Corporation (ABCD). The KOZ is an umbrella for also the Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone (KOEZ) and Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone (KOIZ).
The resolution the board adopted extends the term of real property, earned income tax, net profits mercantile, and business privilege taxes within specific geographic area in the Tyrone Area School District and Tyrone Borough designated as a KOZ, KOEZ, or KOIZ, in order to foster economic opportunities, stimulate industrial, commercial, and residential improvements and prevent physical and infrastructure deterioration within areas of Blair County, Pennsylvania, upon certain terms and conditions.
The KOZ has a year to year tax exempt extension timeline. With the board’s adoption last night, the new extension will begin January 1, 2009 and end June 9, 2009.
ABCD Corporation President and CEO Marty Marasco and Executive Vice-President Pat Miller had presented an update and outline of the KOZ program to board members and school district officials prior to the board’s decision to adopt the resolution.
In previous years, the KOZ has developed areas that provide a tax base to the school district, such as American Eagle Paper Mills and Smith Transport. There are two parcels under the paper mill that have an average assessed value of $358,823 and $14,955, and Smith Transport has four parcels with average assessed values of $692,168, $223,593, $17,918, and $6,653.
The properties that are considered “undeveloped areas” in the school district, as well as Snyder Township and Tyrone Borough, that will now be considered tax exempt include: 18.57 acres owned by Bar-Don Reality, located on lots 7 and 8 at the Robert C. Jubelirer Business Park in Bald Eagle; 21.1 acres owned by ABCD, located on lots 5,6, and 9 at the same location; 7.5 acres owned by Melvin E. Light, located on lot 1 at the same location; and 16.3 acres owned by William L. Dixon, Sr. and Phyllis Dixon, located at the Tyrone Industrial Park.
Tyrone Area School District (TASD) Business Administrator Cathy Peachey said that the land owners of the undeveloped areas mentioned under the KOZ are not currently paying taxes. The adopted resolution continues that exemption.
Board member Brian Bressler voiced concern over passing the resolution before a vote took place. He questioned what was being done with the properties to bring in development, business, or industry, because the properties have been sitting there for years without anything being done.
He asked what ABCD Corporation has been doing to promote development in Snyder Township, Tyrone Borough, and the rest of the school district.
“I feel like if nothing’s been done with these properties, then there should be taxes collected from them,” said Bressler. “It’s no different from the ordinary tax payer having ground, but their ground is being taxed.”
Peachey and TASD Superintendent Dr. William Miller both said that by adopting the resolution, that would begin the first phase of potential development in the mentioned areas. They said that ABCD Corporation will be coming back to the district in May, as part of the second phase, with a proposal.
“There is an effort underway as far as potential development, but at this time ABCD doesn’t want to make the information public,” stated Miller. “There’s no guarantees, but there is an effort and considerations.”
TASB Vice-President James Crawford, who also is on the ABCD Corporation Board of Directors, noted that ABCD’s website promotes the properties within the school district for development. He said that it takes awhile to get ground sold now-a-days, but ABCD wants to get business here and create jobs.
“ABCD Corporation is looking for ground in any part of Blair County where there is an acreage such a size that can be developed for business location, for companies to come in and build a manufacturing plant, or a warehouse,” explained Crawford.
He cited examples of ground being developed through ABCD Corporation such as the Sheetz Distribution Center and Sheetz Kitchen in Claysburg, along with Smith Transport in the Robert C. Jubelirer Business Park in Bald Eagle.
Crawford also mentioned the I-99 Enterprise Campus in Tipton that ABCD developed and has sold one lot out of three.
“The other two have had nibbles on them, but no one signed the dotted line yet,” said Crawford. “There’s been negotiations, but nothing has been completed.”
Bressler and the rest of the school board were content with the possibilities of the school district properties being developed in the future, which prompted the unanimous approval of the resolution.
“Things get done on the side that maybe we don’t know of until it’s time to do it,” said Bressler.
Crawford was pleased that the board adopted the KOZ resolution, especially when job creation is a potential outcome.
“We need the businesses that can locate here and employ locally,” stated Crawford. “That’s part of ABCD’s mission, to locate businesses that will employ local people.”