Tax-exempt status appeals pending

Solicitor or no, the legal case regarding the tax-exempt status of a number of Warren County entities is moving forward, including a status conference scheduled for today.

Five Warren County agencies filed appeals after their tax-exempt status was taken away.

Warren General Hospital, the Rouse Estate, the Warren County YMCA, the Crary Home, and Calvary Chapel each filed appeals to the Warren County Court of Common Pleas in January asking that the decisions by the Warren County Board of Assessment Appeals be set aside.

In general, the appeals cite errors of law and abuse of discretion and the filers claim their entities are purely public charities. The filings ask that the board’s actions be overturned and each entity’s tax-exempt status be restored.

Some of the filings cite violations of due process. According to Calvary Chapel’s, “the Warren County Board of Appeals revoked appellant church’s property tax exempt status without notice and the opportunity for a hearing… rather provided appellant church with an appointment to discuss its tax status.”

Warren General’s claimed the board made its decision based on evidence not presented at the hearing. “The only evidence presented was in support of the continued exemption of the hospital and each of the hospital properties…”

“No evidence was presented… in opposition,” according to the document. “The actions of the board in revoking the exemption status of the hospital properties and establishing new assessed values for the hospital properties on the basis of evidence outside the record… violated the due process rights of the hospital.”

The hospital’s appeal cites Warren-Forest Court of Common Pleas Local Rule 5003 requiring the board make a “full and complete transcript of the hearing before the board.”

According to members of the board, no transcripts were made.

The appellants argue that the board does not have the authority to review tax-exempt status on its own. “The board only has the power and authority to hear appeals initiated by a party in interest,” according to the hospital’s appeal.

The solicitor for the board of appeals, Barry Klenowski, said the board is “in the process of drafting and filing answers to most of the petitions that have been filed.” Klenowski, who has given the county notice that he is leaving county duties, will remain as solicitor for the Assessment Appeals Board until March 11.

There is a status conference scheduled for this afternoon regarding the hospital’s case, Klenowski said.