The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has denied an appeal from Central York School District to review a decision it made about a property tax assessment for Harley-Davidson Inc.'s campus in Springettsbury Township.
At issue is how much the Milwaukee-based manufacturer should be paying in school, municipal and county taxes for its 229-acre campus at 1425 Eden Road in Springettsbury Township.
The civil-court battle has been going on since 2004 after Harley appealed an assessment that raised the fair market value of the local property from $10 million to $39 million.
On Oct. 30, the state court ordered York County President Judge Stephen Linebaugh to reevaluate Harley's property assessment while considering environmental contamination, fair market value and not assessing the campus as a subdivision.
"Everybody won a little and lost a little, but the school district sought reconsideration," said Kristen Brown, prothonotary for the Commonwealth Court.
In November, Central York appealed the decision, and the Commonwealth Court denied the appeal on Dec. 27.
Both the school district and Harley have 30 days from that date to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court, Brown said.
If neither party appeals, the matter will now go back to the York County court where Linebaugh will rule on an assessment, she said.
Central York spokeswoman Jule Romig did not return calls seeking comment.
Harley spokeswoman Bernadette Lauer said the company was pleased with the October decision.
If a judge finds in Harley's favor, the company will seek any overpaid taxes it is owed for years 2004 through 2010, Lauer said.
Money at stake: Based on Harley's assessed property value and the millage rates for those years, the company could be owed about $2 million in overpaid taxes.
Central York School District would owe more than $1 million, the county would owe more than $250,000, and Springettsbury Township would owe more than $58,000, according to county data.
"We're certainly concerned about possibly having to return that amount of money," said Springettsbury Township Manager John Holman.
Returning that money would affect township residents because it would come out of the current year revenues, which have an impact on the next year's budget, he said.
The recent court decision is no reason to breathe a sigh of relief, Holman said.
"I'm going to wait and see if they appeal to the state Supreme Court and if the case is heard before the state Supreme Court," Holman said. "And I want to add Harley has been a good neighbor and great employer for the township," Holman said.
The argument: Harley has argued that environmental contamination on the land should yield a lower assessment than the $39 million.
The U.S. government used the property as the York Naval Ordnance plant until 1964 when the American Machine and Foundry Co. (AMF) purchased the land and used it as a site to make bomb casings.
AMF merged with Harley, and motorcycle manufacturing began on the campus in 1973.
Military contracting was phased out in the early 1980s, but left behind were significant environmental impacts, according to court records. They include soil and groundwater contamination, and hazardous materials buried on the property.
Because of the contamination, an environmental expert for Harley previously said the property should be valued at $14.5 million for years 2003-2005, $15 million for years 2006-2009 and $12.5 million in 2010, according to court records.
--Reach Candy Woodall at firstname.lastname@example.org.