With approval from two of the three Armstrong County Commissioners last week, four Armstrong School District schools will be eligible to become Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones.
Kittanning Township Elementary School, Kittanning Junior High, Kittanning Senior High and Ford City Junior-Senior High had all before been approved by their respective municipality leaders for consideration in the 10-year, tax-free status. The last step before the application is submitted to the State was the County approval.
Armstrong County Department of Economic Development Executive Director Michael Coonley brought forth the official proclamations before the commissioners Thursday for the four schools, land in the West Hills Industrial Park and two schools in the Freeport Area School District.
“Although nothing’s been decided by the school board what to do with these facilities, this creates an incentive should the developer be willing to take a look at that building,” Coonley said.
Corporate net income taxes, capital stock and franchise taxes and sales taxes, among others, from the municipality, school district and county will all be withheld from business expenses should a company move into such properties once they are vacant.
Kittanning Township Elementary is already vacant after it was closed two school years ago, and the four remaining are to close after the 2014-15 school year in preparation for the new Armstrong Junior-Senior High School in Manor Township.
“The program has proven to be very successful,” Coonley said.
The two resolutions were approved 2-1, with Commissioner Chair David Battaglia in opposition. He cited updated values in the state’s Clean and Green tax assessment program that have hampered some local residents.
Battaglia received some phone calls from concerned residents before he made his decision.
“Their voices will be heard – their concerns will be at least acknowledged and we will continue to work with our individual groups,” Battaglia said. “This is not unique seeing tax values triple – this concerns me.”
“We’re trying to be equitable with every concern.”
Commissioner Richard Fink thanked the local communities and Sen. Don White (R-Armstrong/Indiana) for their support to try and stimulate job creation.
“The last step down that ladder – and it’s always been the position of Armstrong County – will follow our school districts and the municipalities on this issue, and its because I want to see their communities grow,” Fink said. “That’s why I voted on that issue.”
Armstrong County is submitting its application in cooperation with Indiana County. About 300 of the 350 acres in the Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone will be within Armstrong.
The program began locally with 29 acres in the Northpointe Industrial Park
Armstrong and Indiana County
Commissioners are to continue to meet about the issue with groups such as the Farm Preservation Bureau and individual property owners.
In other news, County Controller Myra Miller was ‘humbled’ and received a round of applause from commissioners as she became the new president of the Pennsylvania State Association of County Controllers.