2010-02-25 / Local & State

Commissioners Hear Tax Appeal

By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

The Fulton County commissioners, as part of the county Tax Appeals Board, received input this week from representatives of Homes for McConnellsburg Inc. on why their nonprofit organization should either see their property returned to tax-exempt status or at the minimum make a payment in lieu of taxes.

Chief asset manager Doug Smith and Bert Hahn, assistant manager, publicly discussed on Tuesday the HUD property known as Mountain View House located at 375 Lions Park Drive, McConnellsburg, which provides housing to low-income, elderly residents.

The facility has a total of 17 units, and, according to Smith, has zero value on the sales market due to deed restrictions that require the building to serve the public for a period of 35 years. He went on to say the facility operates on a break-even basis and therefore is not a revenue producer.

County chief tax assessor Michelle Sowers explained that Mountain View House was initially listed on the county tax rolls in 2006 as tax exempt. In October 2009 it was placed back on the list as a taxable property with an assessed value of $433,160. The new assessment would generate real estate income on several different levels, including $11,196.10 for the Central Fulton School District; $4,331.60 for Fulton County; and $216.58 for Todd Township.

In hearing Smith and Hahn’s proposal, county solicitor Stanley Kerlin quoted recent case law handed down by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in the matter of Buchanan Manor located in Mercer County. Kerlin noted that subsidized housing unit is very similar to the operation in McConnellsburg, and the court determined the federal government was obligated to pay the real estate taxes on Buchanan Manor.

Hahn made reference to an existing deal on Shippen House located in Shippensburg where the nonprofit organization makes an annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) in the amount of $100 per unit. The facility has a total of 24, and HUD has in turn agreed to pay the PILOT in the amount of $2,400 yearly.

Smith concluded their organization provides a “common good” in providing housing to local residents in need. He added the housing is “better than public housing and slum units” and reminded the Tax Appeal Board the organization has no vested interest or connection to Fulton County.

“It’s just our mission,” he concluded.

Smith and Hahn waived their right to a five-day notification of the Tax Appeal Board’s decision. In the meantime, the county solicitor is set to review various information provided by Homes for McConnellsburg Inc., including budget information and a regulatory agreement with HUD before the Appeal Board renders a decision.

In other matters reviewed on February 23, land-use planner Steve Thomas informed the commissioners on the status of the countywide stormwater management plan, which is around 43 percent complete at this time. Thomas further stated Dublin Township has submitted a letter indicating it does not wish to participate in the project. The next meeting related to the management plan is scheduled for Tuesday, March 2.

Business manager Tim Stanton reported there has reportedly been a problem with Berkheimer Associates remitting funds collected to municipalities. Stanton also touched on the status of the National Association of Counties (NACo) prescription drug discount card program. Through the program, which got under way in county in July 2007, a total of $53,956.51 has been saved by 2,119 participating residents.

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