With a unanimous vote, the Easton Area School Board has approved a new Keystone Opportunity Zone for the city of Easton.
The KOZ is a state-run program that provides tax breaks for people who develop properties that have been vacant or blighted.
Speaking to the board Tuesday night, Mayor Sal Panto called the properties -- including the Simon Silk Mill on 13th Street and the intermodal unit on S. Third Street -- "game changing" for the city.
In Easton's case, thoset tax breaks would go into effect in 2014 and would last nine years. During that time, property owners and residents in the properties in question would pay no property taxes, income taxes or business privilege taxes.
In addition to the Silk Mill and intermodal unit, the other properties are:
- The Stewart Silk Mill on W. Lincoln Street in the South Side.
- The Governor Wolf building on Second Street.
- Two buildings at 118 and 120 Northampton St.
“We have never received a penny in revenue from any of these buildings," board member Frank Pintabone said. "Unless we do this, we will probably never receive a penny in revenue from any of these buildings.”
Although the vote was 9-0, board member Robert Moskaitis was skeptical at first, saying the board got a better deal when it approved a similar tax-break plan -- the TIF in Palmer Township.
"I don’t see too much sense in having marginal business projects," he said. "If they’re marginal they require tax free funding, are they really going to survive?”
Panto said he already has developers lined up, and noted that the district is now receiving income from the Grand Eastonian, a previous KOZ property.
Earlier this year, Easton abandoned its plans to try to set up a KOZ for 2013. But City Council voted last month to approve the KOZ for 2014. The city still needs Northampton County Council to back the KOZ before submitting its plans to the state.