Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

District finance Board will seek additional revenue when TIF expires

Monday, November 25, 2019 by Theresa O’Brien Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

BASD provided updates on the BethWorks TIF and on various student and visitor policies at its Nov. 18 finance and human resources meeting.

In 2000, the Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority (RDA) created the BethWorks Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) District in order to encourage development of the brownfield site formerly occupied by Bethlehem Steel. Under the terms of the TIF, the three bodies empowered to tax this land (BASD, City of Bethlehem, and Northampton County) agreed to receive less than the full property tax in order to divert funds to redeveloping the site. Initial redevelopment efforts focused on infrastructure, including the roadways and utilities where SteelStacks and the Wind Creek Casino currently stand.

Although the use of some TIF money to fund private development efforts has been controversial, the TIF has sped up the remediation of a hazardous and unattractive former industrial site.

BASD’s participation in the BethWorks TIF is coming to an end. The 2019-2020 fiscal year is the last year in which BASD will share tax revenues with redevelopment efforts on this tract of land. During 2017-2018, BASD retained $4.44 million of the $8.83 million collected for this site, bringing the total (through June 2018) to $31.3 million for BASD of $72.1 million collected.

CFO Stacy Gober explained that beginning with the 2020-2021 tax year, BASD will retain 100% of the property tax collected on the aforementioned parcels; however, as Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy clarified, $2 million of the first year’s revenue is already committed to paying for the recently completed Nitschmann MS project.

Chief Human Resources Officer Russ Giordano performed the second reading of the district’s updated emergency preparedness and relations with law enforcement policies. He also unveiled the district’s new school trip policy, noting that the official document reflects actual district practice over the past few years. One significant change to the documented policy is that district staff organizing non-school-sponsored field trips, such as a trip to Europe for foreign language students, must have board approval prior to recruiting students or advertising the trip on district property. This policy and all district policies are available online (https://go.boarddocs.com/pa/beth/Board.nsf/Public).