The kerfuffle over whether the new Charl-Mont at the Lackawanna County Government Center at the Globe should be tax-exempt is the example du jour of what happens when there are too many commissioners in the kitchen.
A resurrected Charl-Mont was the political fever dream of Commissioner Pat O’Malley, but it was far from contagious in the local restaurant community. After shopping the idea far and wide, O’Malley finally got a bite from Gino Majewski, who needed a $25,000 county business development loan that was quietly passed along with the monthly bills in February. Read that column here.
Read today’s story by Staff Writer Jeff Horvath here. In it, County General Counsel Don Frederickson makes a pair of ridiculous arguments for why the Charl-Mont — a private business leasing space in a public building — should be tax-exempt.
“We are a political subdivision of the commonwealth,” Frederickson said. Because the County owns the building, he said, it would be responsible for paying the tax. “Basically we would be taxing ourselves, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Also, the Charl-Mont takes up less than 1% of the government center, Frederickson noted, and wouldn’t generate more than a ketchup packet worth of revenue. Taxes on the space wouldn’t be worth printing the bill.
Try selling either of these justifications to any other tax-paying business owner. The Charl-Mont should pay the same as any other business, especially considering its owner accepted taxpayer money to open. That no one thought to include that standard ingredient in the lease agreement exposes O’Malley’s pet project was hall-baked from the start.