Real estate taxes rising in all but one Luzerne County school district

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
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Eleven of Luzerne County’s 12 school districts have increased real estate taxes for the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to new county assessment office records.

Northwest Area School District is the lone exception, with a tax rate remaining at 10.7452 mills.

A mill is $1 tax on every $1,000 in assessed value of real estate.

For example, the owner of a $100,000 property would pay $1,074.52 in school taxes in Northwest Area (the assessment divided by 1,000 multiplied by 10.7452).

The increases in the other districts, along with their new total millage rates:

• Wyoming Valley West, 0.76 mill/16.75 mills

• Hazleton Area, 0.6549 mill/10.5559 mills

• Hanover Area, 0.5976 mill/18.1747 mills

• Wilkes-Barre Area, 0.593 mill/18.0364 mills

• Crestwood, 0.5418 mill/10.3899 mills

• Wyoming Area, 0.5129 mill/16.4496 mills

• Pittston Area, 0.4955 mill/15.982 mills

• Lake-Lehman, 0.4299 mill/11.0345 mills

• Greater Nanticoke Area, 0.4139 mill/11.9113 mills

• Dallas, 0.2015 mill/13.6338 mills

• Berwick Area, 0.13 mill/10.85 mills

While Wyoming Valley West’s hike is the highest, the percentage increase is greatest in Hazleton Area — 6.6 percent — followed by Crestwood with 5.5 percent.

To put those increases in perspective, however, it should be noted that Hazleton Area and Crestwood still have the lowest tax rates among the 12 districts.

Hanover Area has the highest rate, with Wilkes-Barre Area at a close second.

Officials in districts with hikes have cited a range of reasons, according to published reports.

For example, Wyoming Area’s business consultant blamed the increase on revenue losses from property assessment reductions and rising health insurance costs. At Lake-Lehman, the business manager pointed to higher expenses for health care, salaries and early retirement benefits.

Big picture

School taxes make up the largest share of real estate tax bills.

County taxes are an additional 5.9754 mills.

Municipal rates range from zero in Slocum Township to a high of 6.85 mills in Pittston.

With all three combined — school, county and municipal — the top tax rate is in Hanover Township, where property owners pay 29.6501 mills, or $2,965 on a property assessed at $100,000.

The combined tax rates exceed 28 mills in five other municipalities: Plymouth, 29.4454; Ashley, 29.0001; Pittston, 28.8074; Sugar Notch, 28.6501; and Forty Fort, 28.3154.

On the opposite end, Slocum Township has the lowest combined tax rate — 16.3653 mills — largely due to the lack of a municipal taxes and Crestwood’s ranking as the lowest school millage. Township officials have said they are trying to survive on state liquid fuels funding and wage tax revenue.

Jeddo, Nuangola, Penn Lake Park and Dennison and Rice townships also have combined rates ranging from 16.6253 to 16.9653 mills. All but Jeddo are in the Crestwood district.

A breakdown of all real estate taxes in each municipality is posted on the assessment page at www.luzernecounty.org.

Wilkes-Barre’s tax rate can’t be compared to the others because city officials decided to keep their own old assessments after the countywide reassessment that took effect in 2009. The city’s millage rate is 141.33 for city taxes because the assessments are lower and not tied to current market value.

City officials have discussed switching over to the county assessments, which are used by all other taxing bodies, but they backed away after analysis concluded residential property owners would be hardest hit, a representative has said.

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By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

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

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