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Taxing authorities file appeal to overturn exempt status for Norfolk Southern Railroad

HARRISBURG — Multiple taxing authorities in central Pennsylvania have filed a joint appeal in court to fight a February 2018 ruling that railroad intermodal yards, in this case Norfolk Southern Railroad (NFS), are exempt from local taxes, the public utility realty tax (PURTA).

The taxing authorities include: Dauphin County, Swatara Township, City of Harrisburg, and both Central Dauphin and Harrisburg School District.

They’re fighting for $2.14 million, which is what the taxing authorities say they will lose annually as a result of the finding.

In September, the Dauphin County Board of Assessment Appeals granted exemption for NFS’s intermodal yard in Swatara Township and the City of Harrisburg.

Because of this, Swatara Township, specifically, was set to lose $150,000 in tax revenue from NFS and forced to refund the tax revenue it collected. Officials told FOX43 that the ruling was impacting the township fire department as well as school districts.

“This big tax break for the railroad puts a heavy burden on taxpayers,” said Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III, who oversees the county’s Tax Assessment Office. “We intend to fight the railroad’s claim to tax exemption under this archaic law, PURTA, that will leave the county and several taxing authorities, especially Harrisburg and Central Dauphin School Districts, with a revenue deficit.”

The following NFS properties in the county have been deemed tax exempt based on the court’s finding:

  • 4250 Industrial Road in the City of Harrisburg, and
  • Rutherford Yard, Milroy Road, 7750 Grayson Road, 7150 Grayson Road, and Derry Street L9 in Swatara Township.

“Norfolk Southern owns a great deal of property in Dauphin County,” said County Board Chairman Jeff Haste, “and it’s only right the railroad pay its fair share of taxes,” said County Board Chairman Jeff Haste. “This loss of revenue is immediate and will be felt for years to come.”