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Learning Collaborative appeals tax status to state high court

DUMMERSTON—The Southeast Vermont Learning Collaborative has appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court to settle whether it’s entitled to tax exempt status, as has been denied here.

Town Attorney Robert Fisher, of Fisher & Fisher, presented the Dummerston Selectboard with his reading of the facts of the case at their meeting June 12.

Town voters in 2010 approved selling the former state library building, at 471 Route 5, to the nonprofit Learning Collaborative with the understanding that the organization would pay the full taxes of the appraised value of this property – $456,000, with an approximate yearly tax bill of $7,000.

Speaking to The Commons for a previous article, Selectboard Chair Ezekiel “Zeke” Goodband said the Collaborative “did not stand up and correct this impression.”

Indeed, Goodband said, the Collaborative’s request for tax-exempt status came as a surprise.

The Learning Collaborative provides professional development classes to teachers.

The Lister’s Office and Board of Civil Authority each have denied the organization’s request.

The Selectboard approved authorizing Fisher to submit a letter of facts in collaboration with the Learning Collaborative’s attorney to the Vermont Supreme Court on June 12.

Submitting the list of facts and allowing a judge to decide the case would be the fastest route to resolving the matter, Goodband said.

According to Selectboard Vice Chairman Lewis White, the Learning Collaborative has said that even if the judge rules in its favor, the organization will still give its original gift in lieu of taxes – a little over $3,000.

According to Fisher’s letter, read into the meeting, “The amount of the donations would represent 30 percent of the town-assessed tax valuation.”

In White’s view, should the court rule the organization is liable for taxes, then it would have to pay taxes to the town. If the court decides the Learning Collaborative is tax-exempt, then it would give the town a payment in lieu of taxes.

Should the organization and town settle the case, then the issue still would have to face state review, White said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #208 (Wednesday, June 19, 2013).

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