As president of the Lancaster Taxpayers Association, I found the Sept. 5 front-page News article about decreasing tax bases interesting. However, at least as interesting is the amount of the tax bases that is tax-exempt. In the Town of Lancaster, the July 1999 total assessed value is $1,677,900,039 but $359,939,538 of that amount is tax-exempt. In round numbers, $360 million out of $1,678 million is tax-exempt, leaving only $1,318 million for the tax base.
The three-year trend is even more alarming: Since 1996 the average rate of taxing new construction in the town has been only 36 percent. Again, using numbers rounded to the nearest million for clarity, out of $184 million in new construction since 1996, $118 million has been declared tax-exempt and only $66 million is taxed.
Lest someone try to attribute this $118 million increase to veterans and senior citizens, their combined exemption increases account for less than 10 percent of the $118 million. The major culprit would appear to be the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency, headed by the town supervisor. Who else grants tax exemptions in the town? Compared to these exemptions, the current concerns about ratios of commercial property to residential property are insignificant as a measure to control and reduce property taxes.
JOHN L. BEILMAN