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Upper Burrell to reap tax windfall from the Westmoreland Business and Research Park

| Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, 1:46 a.m.

Additional tax money from the Westmoreland Business and Research Park in Upper Burrell will begin rolling in this year.

Jason Rigone, director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp., recently told township supervisors that property tax money from the most recent park expansion no longer will be needed to pay off infrastructure improvements.

Rigone said the fourth phase of the park, which includes parcels now occupied by Philips Respironics and Forest Hills Transfer and Storage, was started in 2005.

The nonprofit development corporation, which runs the 540-acre business park that straddles Upper Burrell and Washington townships, needed to extend roads and install other infrastructure to prepare the land for development.

Upper Burrell, Burrell School District and county officials agreed to a tax-increment financing plan that would use property tax revenue generated by new development to pay off the $450,000 in debt assumed for the infrastructure upgrades.

Rigone said the TIF could have diverted tax revenue for as many as 20 years.

But with Philips Respironics and other businesses quickly snapping up the property, the debt has been fully paid. Rigone said all tax revenue in 2013 will be diverted back to the township, school district and county.

Because the last phase was located completely inside Upper Burrell, Washington Township and Kiski Area School District were not involved in the TIF and won't reap any additional tax benefits.

Rigone estimated the final phase generates $210,000 in annual property taxes. About 73 percent goes to Burrell School District, 18 percent to the county and almost 9 percent to Upper Burrell.

In all, Rigone estimated the business park generates $1 million in annual tax revenue.

Upper Burrell Supervisors Chairman Ross Walker said the business park has been a boon for the township: “We're glad to have the industry in the community.”

Walker said the $18,000 in additional tax revenue expected from the park this year adds up to about two-thirds of a mill of property tax revenue. Upper Burrell residents pay 10 mills of property tax to the township.

“That increased income will be wonderful for the township,” he said. “It helps us hold the line on not increasing taxes.”

The park houses about 23 companies and 3,000 employees. With about 250 developable acres of land, the park is just about full, with only a few small parcels that haven't been sold or optioned, Rigone said. With the slow uptick in the economy, he's hopeful those parcels soon will be developed.

The industrial development corporation is interested in expanding to nearby Alcoa-owned property, but there are no imminent plans to branch out, Rigone said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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