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Menno Haven files tax board appeal

December 01, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Menno Haven Inc. filed an appeal Monday in Franklin County Court challenging the county's Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes on its Oct. 26 decision to change the tax-exempt status of nursing homes at its Menno Village and Penn Hall retirement communities.

In the appeal of the board's decision to make the skilled nursing homes taxable, Menno Haven stated that the homes were not treated the same as as those at The Shook Home in Chambersburg and the Quincy United Methodist Home in Quincy, Pa. The appeal stated the board violated the Pennsylvania Constitution, which requires that "all taxes be uniform upon the same class of subjects" within the territory of a taxing authority.

"There is no substantial difference between the skilled nursing facilities operated by Quincy and that of Menno Haven's skilled nursing facilities," the appeal stated.

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The nursing homes at Quincy and The Shook Home are tax-exempt, but both retirement communities entered into agreements to make payments in lieu of taxes for the other portions of their properties, according to the appeal. It stated the tax board, Chambersburg Area School District and the Borough of Chambersburg "are intentionally retaliating against Menno Haven" for not entering into a similar agreement for the assisted and independent living quarters at Menno Village and Penn Hall.

There are agreements between taxing authorities and Luther Ridge and The Shook Home for payments in lieu of real estate taxes for assisted and independent living quarters, according to county attorney Welton J. Fischer. The agreements call for those retirement communities to make payments in lieu of taxes based on 50 percent of the assessed value for the various levels of assisted care facilities and 100 percent for independent living quarters, Fischer said.

Fischer said the agreements differ only in that Luther Ridge has no nursing home and The Shook Home has no independent living quarters. The intent of the agreements is to treat retirement and nursing homes equally, based on the facilities offered, he said.

The same proposal previously was offered to Menno Haven, which declined it, he said.

Fischer said he did not know if there was a similar agreement with Quincy, which has a nursing home and assisted and independent living quarters.

The tax board is made up of the Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Bob Thomas said the board voted to change the tax status of the Menno Village and Penn Hall nursing homes because they no longer met state requirements for purely public charities.

Thomas cited testimony at an Oct. 18 tax assessment hearing that Menno Haven had not made any payments from its benevolent care fund in the previous two years and had financial admission requirements for its nursing homes.

In its appeal, Menno Haven stated it is a nonprofit corporation that meets state standards for purely public charities set by the Legislature and courts.

Menno Haven also filed appeals of the board's Oct. 26 decision not to reduce the assessed value of the Penn Hall campus and an appeal of its decision to tax the assisted and independent living facilities at the two retirement communities, according to court records.

Menno Haven has been appealing the taxable status of its assisted and independent living facilities since 2001, according to court records.

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