Tax issue delay was trade-off

When the parties agreed to make decisions for the 2014 tax year and beyond, they were trying to streamline the case.

The Warren County Board of Assessment Appeals and Warren General Hospital had more on their plates prior to the stipulations approved last week.

“Each side made concessions,” former board solicitor Barry Klenowski said.

The agreement to skip the 2013 tax year benefits the hospital.

Throwing out all but one procedural challenges benefits the board of appeals – and eliminates spending court time on those challenges.

“I think it’s good for all concerned that the actions have been consolidated because it will streamline the process,” Warren General Hospital board chairman Tim Bevevino said.

“The board ultimately agreed to seek taxes from 2014 and forward in exchange for having the hospital waive several procedural claims that it has raised and, more importantly, so that the ultimate issue of whether the board had the right to correct errors and omissions in the tax rolls and remove the hospital’s exemption can be resolved as quickly as possible,” Klenowski said.

The board wasn’t looking at the stipulations as money lost to the county.

“Ultimately, the board’s main concern here is to make certain that all people/property owners that should be paying taxes are doing so,” Klenowski said. “The board is less concerned with what this means in terms of dollars and cents. It is simply not within the powers of the board to consider financial implications – whether to the taxpayer, the taxing districts or otherwise. This stipulation is consistent with that position.”

The hospital’s attorneys reserved the right to argue that the board acted on its own, without prompting from taxing bodies, and that it does not have that authority.

The board is fine with that.

“The board has not wavered at all regarding its position that it had the authority to act in the manner that it did,” Klenowski said. “The stipulation has absolutely no correlation with the board’s opinion of its likelihood of success at a hearing on this matter.”

The board’s new solicitor, John Cambest, discussed the stipulations with Klenowski and is on board.

“I believe that the execution of the stipulation was appropriate and will help to define the substantive issues and will be beneficial to the parties in arriving at a settlement or litigation of the appeal,” Cambest said.