The Rouse a peculiar dilemma

In the ongoing litigation pertaining to tax exempt properties in Warren County, The Rouse Estate presents a special case for the Warren County Commissioners.

Discussion of tax appeals in general led the commissioners to examine their role as board members of an entity the county is in litigation with over property taxes and the governing body of the county.

“It’s not really The Rouse Estate in total,” Commissioner John Eggleston clarified of the properties in question. “The nursing home has been judged as tax exempt. This has to do with the properties that are attendant to that, that are not necessarily part of the nursing home.

“We (the commissioners), of course, all sit on the board. We wear two hats. It’s a tough situation, but we have to determine whether they are tax exempt based on, ‘Is assisted living necessarily a tax-exempt function?’.”

“I find ourselves in a very curious situation,” Commissioner John Bortz said, “that we’re litigating against ourself with regard to the Rouse.

“We have the capacity, with the three of us, to say what we want to have happen. We’re the majority body of the Rouse. We’re the litigating body against the Rouse as commissioners. I think that we can do a better job as far as determining what it is that we’d like to have happen.”

Commissioner Chairman Stephen Vanco argued against that position.

“I don’t think that it would be fair to all of these (properties) in question for the commissioners to act on behalf of the Rouse any differently and allow the other ones to go through the system.,” Vanco said. “I think that each of them has to be treated equally.”

Bortz viewed the matter from a perspective of cost.

“We don’t need to exacerbate the courts knowing full well that we have it in our capacity to affect a decision,” Bortz added. “I think the clear, bright line is that we are not the governing body of the hospital, the governing body of the YMCA. We are the majority governing body of the Rouse and we have the capacity… to come to an understanding amongst ourselves as to how we want to affect that process.”