State considers YMCA tax exemption case
May 17, 2016
The YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch tax exemption case may soon be headed to the Colorado Supreme Court.
Grand County government attorney Alan Hassler confirmed Monday both Grand and Larimer Counties have filed briefs with the Colorado Supreme Court asking the court to review the case. Hassler said the court was fully briefed on the request for review last week and the counties are now awaiting a decision from the Court on whether or not the Justices will hear the case.
Hassler said he had no estimated timeline on when he expects a decision from the court. He stressed the fact that the pending decision from the state Supreme Court pertains only to whether or not the court will review the case. If the court does decide to move forward with a review of the dispute Grand and Larimer Counties will file additional briefs with the court lining out their positions on the subject as will YMCA of the Rockies and their legal counsel.
If the Colorado Supreme Court declines to hear the case it means Grand and Larimer Counties will have no additional recourse on the subject through state courts.
The legal proceedings are the result of a unique set of circumstances involving YMCA of the Rockies. Throughout 2003 and half of 2004 the facilities operated by YMCA of the Rockies in Grand and Larimer Counties were taxed by local authorities.
In Dec. 2003 YMCA of the Rockies applied for tax exemption on its two regional properties, Snow Mountain Ranch in Grand County and the Estes Park Center in Larimer County. After initially being granted exemption the Board of Assessment Appeals reversed the decision. The Colorado Court of Appeals then vacated the Board of Assessment Appeal's decision in April 2013. The Colorado Court of Appeals reaffirmed the tax-exempt status of the properties in Jan. 2015.
The tax-exempt status of the properties means that taxes levied on the institutions through 2003 and 2004 are owed back to YMCA of the Rockies from the various taxing entities. For Grand County alone that repayment figure is roughly $1.3 million. The East Grand School District (EGSD) is looking at a total repayment figure of around $618,000.
East Grand's Business Manager Donette Schmiedbauer maintains figures on the amount of property tax the EGSD would have received from Snow Mountain Ranch had the property not been declared tax exempt, roughly $1,129,000.
As the matter winds its way through the legal system East Grand is looking to cover budget shortfalls the District feels resulted from the unique taxing circumstances related to the Snow Mountain Ranch property. Local school districts throughout the state are funded through a myriad of complex programs and streams under the larger umbrella of the 1994 Public School Finance Act of Colorado.
Recently the EGSD Board of Education approved a resolution requesting supplemental funding assistance from the Colorado State Board of Education's contingency fund. The EGSD is seeking $638,209 from the State's contingency fund, which is the amount of money the EGSD feels the District failed to collect under the School Finance Act as a result of the confusion surrounding Snow Mountain Ranch's tax status.
Schmiedbauer explained the State's contingency fund is set aside for school districts that find themselves with financial needs that are unlikely to be met through other sources. She said she did not know if the State would approve the request, considering the fact that EGSD is not in extremely dire financial straits. "We aren't bankrupt and haven't gone through reserves," she said.
Schmiedbauer expressed her belief the State will be required to backfill the $638,000 to the school district if YMCA if found tax-exempt and no additional appeals are made regarding the issue. "However this shakes out they could possibly owe us," Schmiedbauer said.