BETHLEHEM: Council braces tax zones amid fed changes
Bethlehem authorities scrambled Dec. 19 to get a resolution on the agenda in response to possible tax issues anticipated as a result of the then-pending federal tax code revision that was signed into law three days later by President Donald Trump. The new tax code could possibly affect the CRIZ (City Revitalization and Improvement Zone) and the TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) district.
The emergency resolution “affixes, effective December 19, 2017, the areas identified in the CRIZ and TIF plans and improvements to those and future properties identified as deteriorated industrial, commercial and other business property and/or deteriorated residential property in said plans as part of the Master Development Plan as defined and interpreted under the Internal Revenue Plan.”
Bethlehem City Solicitor William Leeson said the action would keep Bethlehem’s TIF and CRIZ developer-friendly. Leeson said he expects “things to change with the new law. We are trying to keep things like they are.”
The problem came to the fore because the federal tax law is ambiguous about how a master plan might be defined; it will be up to the IRS secretary to write the rules which will more clearly define what exactly it will mean.
According to Leeson, Pa. Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh Valley) gets some credit for bringing the matter to the attention of city authorities. The resolution passed 7-0.
In other business, council adopted 10 budget ordinances comprising the 2018 city budget. All passed without comment, except the golf course Enterprise Fund Budget which drew the attention of Bethlehem resident Jack Toy, who objected to the high cost of paying city employees to cut grass and to decisions by the manager, whom he called an excellent greenskeeper, to charge a “trail fee” for golfers who choose to walk instead of riding a golf cart. Toy said this decision had cost the business of some previously regular golfers at the city’s municipal golf course. The total 2018 budget approved for the golf course: $1,495,000.
President J. Willie Reynolds spoke in favor of granting Zoning Hearing Board members a raise from $25 per meeting to $35. It passed 7-0