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County denies tax-exempt claim

A local retirement community asked the commissioners to have all of its properties declared exempt from taxes.

A local retirement community asked the commissioners to have all of its properties declared exempt from taxes.

November 01, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County Commissioners on Thursday denied Menno Haven's request to have all of the retirement community's property exempt from real estate taxes.

Menno Haven Inc., appeared before the commissioners, who make up the tax appeals board, on Monday to appeal the tax assessment on its communities, which include independent and assisted living facilities at its Menno Village and Penn Hall campuses in the north end of the borough. Its nursing home facility, and all nonprofit nursing homes in Franklin County are already tax exempt.

Menno Haven's properties total $44.8 million at fair market value, according to the commissioners.

At risk is about $550,000 in tax revenue to the county, Chambersburg Area School District and Chambersburg Borough, with the lion's share directed to the school.

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Commissioner G. Warren Elliott read from a statement Thursday on behalf of the board of commissioners asking Menno Haven's Board of Directors to do "the right thing," and drop its appeal.

"We ask that the Board of Directors of Menno Haven take the same action that Quincy Home did last fall and withdraw their request, considering, as Quincy did, the distinction between what is right and what may be legally obtainable," the statement said.

Menno Haven requested the exemption under a state law that allows tax exempt status for some nonprofit organizations that qualify as charities.

A spokesperson at Menno Haven could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Elliott said all county residents stood to lose if the board granted Menno Haven's request.

"Menno Haven must realize that, should they win in court, the tax burden will be shifted to our community," he read.

He pointed out the decision would hurt the taxing bodies, which provide Menno Haven residents with services including street construction and repairs, snow removal, fire and ambulance services, utilities and 911 emergency call response.

Granting the request would also force taxing bodies to raise taxes on residents to make up the shortfall, penalizing seniors who maintain their own homes or cannot afford to live at Menno Haven, Elliott said.

He said the appeal was essentially the same as the one Menno Haven filed last year that the commissioners denied.

"Since nothing changed substantively since the last information presented, we denied it again," he said.

"In the mid-1980s, Menno Haven appealed their taxable status and the Court of Common Pleas ruled that only the nursing home was exempt," the statement read. "We maintain that this ruling is still applicable and legal and our position has not changed."

Menno Haven has 30 days to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas, County Solicitor Welton Fischer said.

Menno Haven appealed last year's decision, and its case, seeking tax-free status on its properties retroactive to 1998, is currently before the court.

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