District settles property appeal

District settles property appeal

Central Bucks approved paying back

$377,755 to the owners of New Britain Village

Square shopping center.

The Central Bucks School Board has authorized $377,755 payment to a commercial real estate firm in an out-of-court settlement of a tax assessment appeal.

ERP New Britain Prop. Owner LP, and a previous owner, First Westport Properties, appeal the assessment appeal for the 28 stores New Britain Village Square shopping center at West Butler Avenue and County Line Road in New Britain Township. The appeal effects taxes paid from 2007- 2008 school year through the 2014-2015 school year.

The district's commercial real estate appraiser, Liberty Valuation, reviewed the settlement agreement "and they have assured us that this is fair settlement" the school district said in a memorandum. "The district will lose approximately $25,600 a year in tax revenue in the future years."

The school board approved the $377,755 payment at its meeting Tuesday, but Bucks County Court still must approve the deal.

Attorney Francis J. Hoegen, of the Wilkes-Barre firm of Hoegen & Associates, who represents ERP, said the realty firm appealed its assessment in 2007 to the Bucks County Board of Assessments Appeals, which denied the request. The case was schedule to go to Bucks County Court when the school district decided on the out-of -court settlement, Hoegen said "this happens when appeals take a long time to unravel.

The district's legal team took the lead in handling the case, but the outcome will affect Bucks County and New Britain Township too, since their taxes collected from the shopping center are also based on the assessed value of the property. "They did not take an active role. Their taxes will go down as well. It will impact everyone," Hoegen said.

Neither New Britain Township Manager Eileen Bradley nor a spokesman for Bucks County could be reached for comment on how the taxes change would affect the municipality or county taxes collected from the shopping center. The taxes for each of the seven years involved would have to be recalculated.

The assessment board would change the assessment once the court decided on the case and notify the property owner and tax authorities, an office employee said.

The school district's memorandum on the appeal state that it's attorney Jeff Garton and his team have "come to resolution with opposing counsel and has recommended settlement for the years 2007-2008 through 2014-2015. Under the proposed negotiated terms of the settlement, Central Bucks School District would refund $402,755. If the district pays a lump sum payment as opposed to giving future tax credits, there would be a 25,000 credit applied to the settlement amount. The final settlement amount would be reduced to $377,755," David Martyas, district business manager, said the district put funds aside for assessment appeal settlements, so the funds paid back to shopping won't come for the operating budget. "We've been setting aside money each year... so there's not going to be a budget shock," he said.

Other tax appeals are pending, yes; they come in all the time. Some are more minor compared to this one, Matyas said.

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