Commissioner Best continues to voice displeasure of TrueCore deal

SUNBURY— Northumberland County Commissioner Kymberly Best is demanding for-profit company TrueCore LLC to pay its share of owed taxes. In a letter to WKOK, Commissioner Kymberley Best is blasting other county commissioners for action they took with TrueCore LLC at the public meeting November 14.

Best states County Code requires anyone leasing county property to pay taxes on the property. She says TrueCore should have received an interim bill to pay taxes to the county, Coal Township, and Shamokin Area School District. But Best says it never happened. Now, Best says the taxpayers are footing the bill.

Best says the bill amounts to an illegal tax break for TrueCore. Commissioners Rich Shoch and Sam Schiccatano voted for the deal in June and County Solicitor Frank Garrigan approved it. Best says Shoch and Schiccatano are claiming the changed the deal at the previous public meeting when they amended the least agreement to make TrueCore responsible for tax payments. Best says a bill still hasn’t been sent.  We hope to have reaction from the other commissioners in future newscasts.

Here is the full text of Commissioner Best’s letter:

As the taxpayers of Northumberland County know, majority commissioners Rick Shoch and Sam Schiccatano have entered a lease agreement with TrueCore, LLC, a company that incarcerates kids for profit.  The more the public looks into this deal, the more it looks like a comedy of errors or a drama of corruption.  Either way, there is little entertainment for our taxpayers.

 

There is clear law which governs leases of county property.  Section 2306 (a) of the County Code provides, “In the case of any lease of county property hereunder, such property, with any and all improvements or additions thereon or thereto, shall, in the hands of the lessee, be subject to taxation by such county and any other political subdivision therein, in the same manner as other real estate located in the county. Such taxes shall be levied and assessed against and paid by the lessee.”

 

This is simple.  When someone rents county property, that person pays real estate taxes to the county, the municipality and the school district.  In the case of the TrueCore lease, the moment TrueCore took possession it should have received an interim bill to pay taxes to Northumberland County, Coal Township and the Shamokin Area School District.  This never happened.

 

How could this happen?  In June, Shoch and Schiccatano voted to enter a lease which, by its own terms, obligated the County to pay any taxes and assessments.  County Solicitor Frank Garrigan even admits this in a June 13 email to Schiccatano, saying, “Duties of the County:  1.  Pay taxes and assessments if any (should never be any).”

 

This amounts to an illegal tax break for a for-profit company.  Despite the clear language of the County code, Solicitor Garrigan approved the deal.  Shoch, who claims to be learned in municipal law, voted for it.  We can only conclude that they were either ignorant of this basic provision of the County Code, or they chose to disregard it to give a hidden benefit to TrueCore.  Either way, the taxpayers of Northumberland County, Coal Township and SASD foot the bill.

 

Shoch and Schiccatano will claim that the changed this at the November 14 public meeting when they amended the lease agreement to make TrueCore responsible for tax payments.  The public should not be fooled.  As of the writing of this letter, no bill has been sent to TrueCore.  At the same time, Shoch and Schiccatano cut TrueCore’s rent in half, effectively losing even more revenue for taxpayers.  Further, the illegal property tax break would be reinstated in a year or when TrueCore gets the deals it wants from the Commonwealth and Shamokin Area School District.

 

I will demand on behalf of the taxpayers of Northumberland County that TrueCore pay its fair share of taxes from the beginning of its occupancy.  No doubt, the Commissioners of Coal Township and the Board of Shamokin Area School District will make the same demands.  If TrueCore stands on its supposed rights under the original lease, the County, Township and School District are all in for a fight.

 

We are in this situation for one of two simple reasons.  Either Shoch and Schiccatano don’t know the law and don’t know how to do their job, or they disregarded the law to give yet another break to a company that makes money by locking up kids.

 

Kym Best,

Northumberland County Commissioner

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