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In re Appeal of Collegium Foundation

March 16, 2010

IN RE: APPEAL OF COLLEGIUM FOUNDATION AND COLLEGIUM CHARTER SCHOOL FROM THE DECISION OF THE CHESTER COUNTY BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS FOR PROPERTY LOCATED AT 500 JAMES HANCE COURT, WEST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP, CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
APPEAL OF: COLLEGIUM FOUNDATION AND COLLEGIUM CHARTER SCHOOL



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Brobson

Argued: February 8, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE JIM FLAHERTY, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Collegium Foundation (the Foundation) and Collegium Charter School (the Charter School) (collectively Appellant)*fn1 appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County (trial court). The trial court affirmed the decision of Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals (the Board), which denied Appellant's request for tax exemption. Appellant argues that the trial court erred in finding that the property located at 500 James Hance Court, West Whiteland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, Tax Parcel No. 41-04-0031.4000 (Property) was not entitled to a real estate tax exemption under The General County Assessment Law (GCAL).*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

The Charter School is a nonprofit corporation that has operated pursuant to the Charter School Law*fn3 as a public charter school within the West Chester Area School District (the District) since September of 1999.*fn4 Prior to their merger, the Charter School subleased the Property from the Foundation, which in turn leased the Property from 500 James Hance Court, L.P. (the Landlord), the for-profit owner of the Property. The lease between the Foundation and the Landlord provides that any real estate taxes imposed on the Property shall be paid by the Foundation as tenant of the Property.*fn5 Such payments are imposed on the Charter School through the sublease. The Property lease enables the Foundation to contest any real estate tax assessments and to pursue such appeals on behalf of the Landlord after providing the Landlord with advance notice. If the Landlord contests any tax assessment, the reasonable expenses incurred in doing so shall become additional rent owed by the Foundation and, ultimately, the Charter School.

On July 1, 2008, both the District and West Whiteland Township (Township) sent real estate tax notices to the Landlord that the Property was subject to real estate assessment. The Landlord filed a timely appeal with the Board, challenging the assessed value of the Property. Appellant filed a supplemental appeal, requesting tax exempt status. The Board conducted a joint hearing on both the Landlord's challenge and Appellant's request for exemption on November 21, 2008. By order dated December 15, 2008, the Board denied the challenge and the request for tax exemption. (R.R. 984a.)

Appellant appealed the Board's order to the trial court. The District filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting that the trial court dismiss the matter and asserting there was no genuine issue of material fact to be tried with regard to ownership of the Property. Appellant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. The trial court denied Appellant's motion for summary judgment and granted the District's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the Property is not exempt from real estate tax.

Appellant now appeals to this Court.*fn6 At issue in this case is whether the trial court erred in concluding that the Property was not entitled to a real estate tax exemption under Section 204(a)(4) of the GCAL, 72 P.S. § 5020-204(a)(4).

Section 204(a)(4) of the GCAL provides, in part: "The following property shall be exempt from all county, city, borough, town, township, road, poor and school tax, to wit: . . . [a]ll schoolhouses belonging to any county, borough or school district, with the ground thereto annexed and necessary for the occupancy and enjoyment of the same . . . ." 72 P.S. § 5020-204(a)(4).

Section 204(b) of the GCAL provides, in part:

[A]ll property real or personal, other than that which is actually and regularly used and occupied for the purposes specified in this section, and all such property from which any income or revenue is derived, other than from recipients of the bounty of the institution or charity, shall be subject to taxation, except where exempted by law for State purposes, and nothing herein contained shall exempt same therefrom.

72 P.S. § 5020-204(b) (emphasis added).

Section 204(c) of the GCAL provides that:

(c) Except as otherwise provided in clause (10) of this section, all property, real and personal, actually and regularly used and occupied for the purposes specified in this section shall be subject to taxation, unless the person or persons, associations or corporation, so using and occupying the same, shall be seized of the ...


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