School board clears position on tax appeals

The Warren County School District will not be entering an appearance on tax appeals for tax exempt entities until after a proposed summit between the involved parties is held.

The District Board of School Directors passed a motion at its meeting Monday night following a lengthy executive session directing, “that the district’s appearance not be entered on any tax appeal involving tax exemption until such time as the board’s previous resolution for a summit is implemented.”

The move clears up conflicts between established school policy regarding tax appeals and resolutions regarding tax exempt organization appeals that have been at issue in the county

“In executive session, (District Solicitor) Chris Byham advised us that, in the past, the board adopted two motions regarding the tax exemption cases,” Board President Arthur Stewart said in an e-mail. “Events have unfolded that put those two motions in conflict.”

According to Stewart, one motion, “calls for the solicitor to enter his appearance in any tax exemption appeal once it properly makes its way to the common pleas court.”

The second motion calls for a summit between interested parties, “to learn about tax exemption in general and the facts of the particular cases, all with an eye toward finding points of commonality and to settle the cases amicably, if possible,” according to Stewart.

The text of the motion, passed at the June 10 board meeting, reads, “The board authorizes and directs the administration and board officers to communicate with Warren County, the other impacted taxing bodies, and the affected business entities, with the goal of holding a summit, or multiple summits, at which al parties attend.

“It is the board’s desire that the purpose of the summit(s) be to educate the board of school directors and other impacted taxing bodies as to the legal facts and legal issues having bearing on the tax exempt status of the affected business entities and to identify those factual and legal issues upon which all parties can agree as a means of potentially resolving the litigation or streamlining the process so as to minimize the litigation fees for the taxing bodies.”

Meanwhile district policy 4007 dictates the district, “take such steps or expend such funds to intervene or otherwise participate,” in any real estate assessment appeal pertaining to a parcel with a fair market value of $500,000 or more.

These otherwise compatible district positions are set to collide as two tax exempt entities, the Warren County YMCA and the Crary Home, have appeals of the revocation of their tax exempt status pending before the court of common pleas.

“Chris (Byham) advises that the Crary Home and YMCA cases are on the fast track for litigation and that he would have to enter his appearance in the next few weeks,” Stewart’s e-mail stated, noting the board is not scheduled to meet before court proceedings. “But, despite requests to counsel, Chris has not yet been able to have all parties agree to participate in a summit.”

Under the motion passed Monday, district participation in the ongoing tax appeal litigation is conditioned upon the summit being held.