Ds Scholarship

King’s College tax agreement before Luzerne County Council

King’s College in Wilkes-Barre is offering to provide employee scholarships and other items to Luzerne County government in exchange for guaranteed real estate tax exemption on two properties.

Slated for discussion at Tuesday’s council work session, the agreement applies to the former Spring Brook Property on North Franklin Street that now houses the college’s Mulligan Engineering Center and the former Memorial Presbyterian Church on North Street converted to the college’s Chapel of Christ the King.

According to the agenda, the properties are owned by Spring Brook Memorial LLC, an entity controlled by the college, and will be returned to the nonprofit college in seven years. The creation of a for-profit entity to hold the property was necessary to receive federal tax credits, but the college said the properties are used entirely for educational and charitable purposes.

Instead of a traditional monetary payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, the proposed agreement said the college will:

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• Create a $25,000 annual scholarship fund for county employees and their families.

• Provide a 10% discount and priority access to the college’s daycare facility

• Waive rental fees for access to college facilities and fields

• Grant free access to the Robert L. Betzler Athletic Complex, subject to availability, rules and regulations

“The PILOT will acknowledge that in substance the properties are devoted to charitable, educational purposes and avoiding burdening the college with real estate taxes,” the college’s presentation says.

The Wilkes-Barre Area School Board approved the same agreement in January, with the district receiving a separate $25,000 scholarship fund for district workers and their families.

In its submission to the council, King’s said its investment of approximately $28 million on completed construction projects between 2018 and 2021 has enhanced Wilkes-Barre’s downtown redevelopment initiative.

Students also eat and shop at local business establishments and are academically prepared to meet local employment needs, it said.

King’s also pays the city $125,000 annually in lieu of real estate taxes, it is noted.

Finally, it said local residents benefit from the more than 200,000 hours of community service provided by the college annually, an early learning center that has provided care since 2010 and outreach programs addressing hunger and opioid use disorder.

The Spring Brook property was previously owned by the county. A council majority had voted to sell it to the college in 2014 for $125,000. The property had been vacant after the county acquired it in 2005 in a package of former watershed holdings previously owned by Theta Land Corp.

At the time of the sale, some county council members said they were informed the county would receive real estate tax revenue on the property for the up to seven years it was to be occupied by the college but under the ownership of a taxable entity, according to a prior published report.

Council’s Tuesday work session follows a 6 pm voting meeting at the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre, with instructions for a remote attendance option posted at the council’s online meeting link at luzernecounty.org.

A council vote would be required at a future meeting for the agreement to take effect.

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