VALPARAISO — The Pines Village Retirement Communities has lost tax exemptions on more than $20 million in assessed value on its apartments and Meridian Woods Homes condominium development.
The Porter County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals voted 2-1 Tuesday to remove the tax-exempt status based on evidence collected during a hearing in December. The on-site nursing home is not part of the decision.
"The board found that there was insufficient evidence to support the charitable exemption that was sought by Pines Village," Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder said in a prepared statement.
The Pines facility is among 22 property owners being called in by Snyder and the Board of Appeals to defend tax exemptions after recent state rulings. Snyder said in December that six or seven such inquiries by him and the board have already been held with about half able to hang on to exemptions.
“It is crucial that the county reach equitable decisions in relation to exempt properties so that the tax burden is not unfairly shifted to the taxpayers," Snyder said.
Attorney Todd Leeth, who represented Pines Village at last year's hearing, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Leeth argued in December that Pines Village is a nonprofit corporation that promotes civil and charitable work on behalf of seniors.
Cherylene Brennecke, residential life director at Pines Village, had said the corporation has an endowment to offer residents assistance if they run out of funds.
When Board of Appeals President Nick Sommer asked about the level of subsidies, Brennecke said five of 160 residents in 2014 received help for a total of $54,000.
She also told Snyder that rents are at or less than the local market.
Brennecke said services that go above and beyond the fees paid by residents include social, educational and fitness programs, as well as transportation.