New Castle News

August 16, 2012

District OKs lower industrial property assessment

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle school district has agreed to settle on a lowered assessed value for the former New Castle Refractories property.

On a 9-0 vote Wednesday night, the board accepted an assessment of $32,000 on the property at 915 Industrial St. and, as a result, a lower payment on its share of taxes on the property.

The total tax deduction to the district is $3,535.17.

Solicitor Charles Sapienza told the board at its work session Monday that the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. had bought the former industrial site two years ago to promote business, “but it received an appraisal that showed the entire site is worthless.”

He added the premises are environmentally contaminated, plus it would cost $330,000 for the agency to tear down the buildings there.

“That may be so,” Sapienza explained, “but our position is that the land still has some value.”

He said he recently met with Lawrence County Commissioner Bob Del Signore, who also is a member of the economic development corporation board, and county solicitor Thomas W. Leslie, and they were agreeable to the $32,000 assessment amount.

The Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. bought the 7.1-acre property and seven buildings on Aug. 5, 2010, from Resco Products Inc. of Pittsburgh.

According to J.R. Hardester, Lawrence County’s chief assessor, the economic development corporation had the property appraised, then based on that appraisal, filed an appeal last fall to the assessed value of the land.

Originally, the land and buildings had a total assessed value of $401,300 — $81,300 for the land and $320,000 for the buildings.

There was a hearing Oct. 6 and the appeals board issued a decision Oct. 28 reducing the total assessed value to $236,700.

Not satisfied with that amount, on Nov. 22 the economic development corporation filed another appeal — in the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas — against the appeals board and the New Castle school district, as the highest taxing body, seeking an even lower assessment.

A warehouse on the site was destroyed by fire Dec. 9 — after the assessment board decision — while, according to court records, the economic development corporation was in the process of having it stripped in preparation for demolition.

The three taxing authorities have entered the suit on behalf the appeals board.

Lawrence County Judge J. Craig Cox has continued the pretrial hearing because the attorneys for the three taxing bodies and economic development corporation had arrived at a tentative settlement.

The lowered assessment, if agreed upon by all three taxing bodies, will mean that the school district would receive an annual $552.64 in taxes on the property.

The school district’s share of taxes are $4,087.81 under the $236,700 assessment.

The school district is the first of the three taxing authorities to approve the agreement. New Castle City Council is expected to consider the agreement next week.

County administrator James Gagliano said that typically, the commissioners vote last on such proposals because they have the least to lose from lowered assessments.

Linda Nitch, executive director of the economic development corporation, said Wednesday the non-profit agency intends to market the site for future development.