A new property assessment of the Harrisburg Mall may pass the buck from shoppers to Swatara Township residents.
In April, Dauphin County Judge Scott Evans approved an assessment that puts the property value of the mall at nearly $8 million. That's a drastic drop from the $66.5 million price tag on the property three years ago, which means the township will be getting less commercial taxes and may be turning to its residents to make up the difference.
Earlier this year, the Dauphin County Tax Assessment Office rejected the mall's requested to lower their assessment value. The mall appealed that decision to Dauphin County Court, who took another look at the property value and assessed it at $7.9 million, according to James Diamond, a local attorney representing the Harrisburg Mall for the Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC's firm.
Last June, a Maryland investment company purchased the mall for $9.5 million. Previously, the malls tax assessment was $17.7 million last year. In 2010 however, the property was valued at $66.5 million.
Starting this year, the drastic drop will mean a $840,000 loss of tax revenue from Dauphin County, Swatara Township, and the Central Dauphin School District, with the schools taking the biggest hit.
This year, Central Dauphin Schools will take in $138,362 less than last year as a result of the new assessment.
One tax official explained that less commercial money from the Harrisburg Mall in recent years has already resulted in an increase in taxes on residents to compensate. Now, with the latest assessment putting that property at an even lower value, he expects taxes to go higher once again.
According to Swatara Township public records, there was a 46 percent tax hike last year and an 11 percent increase this year.
So, this year, a homeowner with an average $100,000 property must pay a combined $150 more in taxes. And that number could go higher next year.
Raisa Elbert who lives up the road from the mall was not happy to learn her taxes might go up once again.
"It's not very good for us," she said. "[My husband and I] tried to save money, and I'm just going to spend more. Just doesn't make any sense," she said.
The Harrisburg Mall is undergoing improvements, which Diamond said could improve the property value in the future. But, in the meantime, people like Elbert said the present pain would be felt.
"It hurts a lot," she said.
Because of the court's recent ruling, Swatara Township Commissioners said they must refund the Harrisburg Mall $36,000 in taxes they already paid. Officials have not said how they will adjust to the loss of revenue.