Another Luzerne County commercial assessment reduction granted

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -
Swetz -

Another big-ticket assessment reduction has been granted to a Luzerne County industrial property, this time for the Insteel Wire Products plant in Hazle Township.

County officials have been pushing for resolution of outstanding assessment challenges, particularly with larger commercial sites, to minimize the hit to government finances. Refunds date to the year challenges were filed, leading to some multiyear payments that have strained past county budgets.

According to county records:

The assessment of the Hazle Township plant was reduced by $1.2 million, from $3.46 million to $2.25 million.

This equates to a $20,260 reduction in real estate taxes under current rates, with the payment to all three taxing bodies decreasing from $57,670 to $37,410.

The county refunded the property owner $6,862 for 2016 and $7,136 for 2017.

The Hazleton Area School District will lose about $12,000 annually from the reduction, while the township will receive $900 less.

Owned by North Carolina-based Insteel Wire Products, the plant is on Forest Road in the Humboldt Industrial Park. The property is 16.46 acres. The company manufactures engineered structural mesh and wiring.

While Hazle Township still has the largest tax base of all 76 municipalities at $1.48 billion, the municipality has been a hotbed for assessment challenges in recent years.

Last August, assessment of the Exopack plastics manufacturing operation in the township was lowered by $967,900, or from a total $5.418 million to $4.45 million.

The Hershey Company’s candy manufacturing plant in the township obtained a $1.54 million assessment reduction in July, for a new total assessment of $4.5 million.

In the opposite direction, the assessment of the Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate building in Hazle Township was raised an unusual $47.8 million due to the school district’s “reverse appeal” arguing the value was too low. The company is contesting the increase, which raised its assessment to $65 million with no building footprint change.

In total, the county refunded $415,806 to property owners who obtained reductions in 2017, said county Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz.

That amount is unaudited and may increase because refunds processed in early 2018 that were granted last year may be logged as 2017 expenditures, Swetz said.

The county has budgeted $550,000 for refunds in 2018, which is the same as the amount the prior two years.

County Manager C. David Pedri said the county may hit that number this year. While more than 200 stale assessment challenges were removed from the court docket due to inactivity, the remaining cases — the exact number was not immediately available — are slated for trial this year to clear out the backlog, he said.


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.