Sale of building to GUARD Insurance to benefit Wilkes-Barre

i Nov 14th 2017

By Steve Mocarsky, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice

WILKES-BARRE — The city is especially fortunate GUARD Insurance bought the Wilkes-Barre Center building on Public Square this year, as resulting real estate transfer taxes could reduce the projected year-end deficit by about one-third.

According to a deed filed Nov. 7, Wilkes-Barre Square Associates sold the building complex at 2-22 S. Main St. and 15-39 Public Square to Westguard Insurance Co., operating as Berkshire Hathaway GUARD, for

$5.07 million.

The city will receive a real estate transfer tax of $101,400, or 2 percent of the sale price. The state will receive 1 percent of the sales price and Wilkes-Barre Area School District will receive 0.5 percent of the sale price in additional transfer taxes.

The city’s share will help shore up what is expected to be an approximately $307,000 deficit come Dec. 31.

Wilkes-Barre’s financial adviser, PFM Group Consulting in Philadelphia, projected in early October that the city would overspend its

$47.2 million budget by about $332,000 while receiving only about $25,000 in additional unbudgeted revenue.

City Administrator Ted Wampole on Monday said the real estate transfer tax from the Wilkes-Barre Center sale should help ease that deficit.

And the eventual sale of GUARD’s currently occupied properties could help the city raise approximately another $100,000 in real estate transfer taxes in the future.

GUARD earlier this month announced plans to relocate its national corporate headquarters from a location on South River Street and three other GUARD offices in the city to Wilkes-Barre Center on Public Square, where the company has been renting one floor of office space.

Those four properties — located at 16 and 24 S. River St., 44 W. Market St. and 19 Frazer Lane — have a total assessed value of $5,471,200, according to Luzerne County assessment records.

GUARD said in a news release at the time of the Wilkes-Barre Center sale that several parties are interested in buying the company’s four downtown buildings. “We expect these properties will be repurposed and occupied sooner rather than later,” GUARD had said.

Since the company first submitted an application to the state on Aug. 31, 2016, for job creation tax credits, 114 new positions were added to GUARD’s 441 existing positions in the city. Plans call for 171 more to be hired by Aug. 31, 2019.