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Pa. school board reaffirms vote in tax assessment appeals

October 15, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Though admitting no violation of Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act, the Chambersburg School Board Wednesday reaffirmed its Aug. 18 vote to file tax assessment appeals for two skilled nursing home facilities owned by Menno Haven Inc.

Menno Haven, owner of the Menno Village and Penn Hall retirement communities, filed the lawsuit alleging the Sunshine Act violation on Sept. 15. In the suit, Menno Haven claimed the district failed to properly advertise that the board would consider the action at its Aug. 18 special meeting.

The legal notice for the meeting stated the board would discuss "district building and construction plans." The suit stated the advertisement was "intentionally vague and deceptive ... for the purpose of concealing the true purpose of the special meeting."

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"We do not believe the district violated any provision of the Sunshine Law," Jan Sulcove, the attorney for the school district, told the board Wednesday. He advised the board, however, to take another vote on the matter to reaffirm actions that have been challenged under the Sunshine Act.

Menno Haven subsequently filed a petition for a preliminary injunction, seeking to stop the district from pursuing any litigation or other action to change the tax status of the nursing homes.

"The skilled nursing facility on the Menno Village campus has been considered tax exempt for real estate taxes by Franklin County from the time of its construction in 1964," according to the Menno Haven petition. The Penn Hall nursing facility also has been tax-exempt, according to the suit.

If the Franklin County Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes grants the school district's appeal, Menno Haven will have to pay $170,000 in real estate taxes on the properties in 2005, according to the petition.

The board of assessment will meet Monday morning to consider three appeals involving Menno Haven, according to Gary Martin, the county's chief appraiser. One will involve the school district's and borough of Chamberburg's appeals of the taxable status of the nursing facilities.

Menno Haven also is appealing the taxable status of its independent living homes, something it has done for the past four years, Martin said. Menno Haven also filed an appeal of the assessed value of Penn Hall retirement complex, he said.

On Tuesday, attorneys for Menno Haven and the school district will be in Franklin County Court for a hearing on the injunction being sought by Menno Haven, according to the Court Administrator's Office.

Menno Haven also had originally named Chambersburg in its Sunshine Act suit, but the borough later was dropped as a defendant, according to court records.

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