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Friday, June 26, 2015

State Buys More Forest Land: How Much Is Enough?

State Buys More Forest Land: How Much Is Enough?

June 26th, 2015
pastateforestPennsylvania State Land Tax Fairness Coalition leaders reported this week that another 3,500 acres have been added to the state forest system, stripping it from the tax base of the affected school districts, counties and municipalities. Some 430 acres have been acquired by the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in Clinton County, at a cost of $776,000. The property will now come off the tax rolls of Keystone Central School District, Clinton County and Noyes Township. Additionally, DCNR has acquired the 3,053 acres near Mocanaqua in Luzerne County and added it to the Lackawanna State Forest. Earlier this year, DCNR announced that it had purchased 17,000 acres in McKean County’s Norwich and Sergeant townships.

Coalition leaders Paul Heimel (Potter), Pete Smeltz (Clinton) and Phil Jones (Cameron) said they will cite the three latest acquisitions as they renew their contacts with state Senate and House members, seeking support for an increase in the annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILT) for each acre of tax-exempt, state-owned land. The rate stands at $1.20/acre for each of the three taxing bodies. One bill (HB 344) would boost it to $1.80. Another measure (HB 1224) would double to rate to $2.40/acre.

More than 300,000 acres in Clinton County – over half the total real estate – are tax-exempt because they’re state owned. Cameron County is 60-percent state-owned, while about 45 percent of Potter County consists of state forest, game and park lands. The leaders said the three new acquisitions raise the question they have been asking all along – how much tax-exempt, state-owned land is enough? Whenever acreage comes under state ownership, they point out, all other property owners are forced to pay more and that land is locked up in its current use. There are benefits to that, but Pennsylvanians need to decide when the state owns enough real estate. The total always goes up, but never down, they noted. One way to directly address the economic toll that state ownership has taken on rural school districts, municipalities and counties is to increase the PILT.

Details on the coalition’s mission can be found on the website, pastatelandtaxfairness.com.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The tax system will not change unless the governments stop their spending habits. Increasing the PILT only takes more of are tax dollars to feed the habit!

Anonymous said...

considerung that the monies used for these purchases comes directly forn HUNTER/Fisher persons, they should be treated as any other citizen! AS MUCH AS THEy CAN AFFORD ! GET OVER OT PEOPLE !

Anonymous said...

Not really, 11:12. That might be the case for state game lands but it is the taxpayers that buy up all this state forest and park lands. It is unexcusable that the state locks up all of the real estate and makes all of us who do own real estate pay all the bills while they are off scott free.

Anonymous said...

Just part of the plan to make all north of I 80 forest.

Anonymous said...

most of this land taken over is from the shale industry that no longer want to pay taxes