Commissioners face taxing issues | News, Sports, Jobs


HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County commissioners cast a series of votes Tuesday, including split votes, to answer real estate tax exoneration requests filed by three local municipalities.

Just because a municipality acquires property doesn’t mean that property is automatically exempt from real estate taxes, solicitor Nathan Karn said Tuesday after commissioners finished voting.

“Only the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gets an automatic exemption … because that’s the law,” Karn said.

When municipalities and school districts acquire property, the solicitor said they should immediately make an effort to file a request with the county for exoneration from real estate taxes.

Those requests, like any requests for tax exoneration, would subsequently be considered on a case by case basis, with decisions typically linked to how the land is used.

In addressing the recent exoneration requests from the City of Altoona, the Altoona Area School District and the Borough of Newry, the county noted that all three municipalities acquired properties but failed to file applications asking for exoneration.

All three commissioners — Bruce Erb, Laura Burke and Amy Webster — voted in favor of rejecting the City of Altoona’s request for exoneration from 2019 real estate taxes of $839 and 2020 real estate taxes of $631 for 1110 Seventh Ave. That property is the site of the Second Lutheran Church that has been demolished.

“Those taxes should have been addressed at the time of (city’s) acquisition,” Burke said, drawing agreement from Erb and Webster.

Commissioners did, however, agree to forgive county fees totaling $153.30 associated with those unpaid real estate taxes.

While Burke proposed granting all other exoneration requests, Erb and Webster disagreed.

For a former residential property at 714 12th St. that the city acquired in 2018, Erb and Webster voted in favor of requiring the city to cover real estate taxes of $125.68 for 2019 and $120.74 for 2020, while the county would forgive fees totaling $225.50.

Erb and Webster also voted in favor of having the Altoona Area School District pay $397 in 2019 real estate taxes for 1224 Sixth Ave., the former bank building that it acquired to use for administrative offices. The county’s fees totaling $49, however, will be forgiven, based on the vote.

Webster pointed out that the property might have been eligible for exemption in 2019 but no application was filed.

Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of granting Newry’s request for exoneration of real estate taxes totaling about $25 on four rights-of-way land strips associated with public works projects. Fees assigned to each of the properties add up to $370.

County Administrator Nicole Hemminger told commissioners that Newry was prepared to allow all four properties to be moved into the county’s repository of properties with unpaid real estate taxes.

While the borough would retain maintenance responsibility of those properties, the county regularly incurs costs for repository properties. Those costs are associated with required postings and notifications to owners, advising them of steps being taken toward the sale of their properties for unpaid taxes.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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