Lancaster Lawmaker Calling For Closer Look At Economic Development Program Numbers

Nov 5, 2015

Lancaster Central Market is in the city's Community Revitalization & Improvement Zone. The program lets participating cities keep some state taxes to fund redevelopment.
Credit Emily Previti / WITF

  Pennsylvania’s Community Revitalization & Improvement Zone is meant to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars toward new development for communities.

It’s off to a slow start. The program is new, officials say, some kinks are expected, and working them out could make all the difference.

But to state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, there are a couple things that just don’t make sense.

So, just a week or so after a report on first year’s lackluster results came out, the Lancaster County Republican wants to double-check the state Department of Revenue’s math.

“Those figures, they don’t really square with what we see happening on the local level,” Smucker says.

Enviable turned underwhelming

Smucker pushed CRIZ shortly after Allentown got its Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

CRIZ works like this: the state and local government together figure out how much non-property tax revenue is generated in a designated area (the zone) the year a city’s accepted into the program. However much tax revenue is produced on top of that every year thereafter — for three decades — is available to investment in city development. Exactly how to use the extra revenue (called the increment) is up to a local board appointed to oversee the CRIZ.

Everyone wanted a CRIZ when the program launched in 2013. Only Lancaster and Bethlehem got one during the first round. The borough of Tamaqua, Schuylkill County got one in 2014 and will get its first increment next year. More designations are expected next year.

Read more of this and other stories at the website of our partner Keystone Crossroads.