Logos Academy, a private, not-for-profit school in York City educating children since 1998, has always considered itself a neighbor and partner with the York City School District.
As neighbor and partner, we educate city students at no cost to the school district, underwritten by the generosity of private donors. We've never viewed Logos as a competitor of the city school district. It's unfortunate that we now find ourselves ensnared in a disagreement over real estate taxes.
Like the district, Logos Academy knows the struggle of funding the important cause of educating city children. In our formative years, one of the considerations that moved us in the direction of a private, not-for-profit rather than a charter school was the desire to avoid pulling funds from the local school system. However, nationally, other private schools, because of financial constraints, have chosen to convert to charter status.
A charter school of our size would pull in excess of $2 million annually from the school district coffers. We steadfastly maintain our conviction not to undermine the public education experience of York City's children, yet find ourselves unjustly saddled with a huge York City School District tax bill of $116,000.
Though Logos Academy is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization, we have gladly and willingly paid approximately $100,000 in real estate taxes since 2007 on our property at 250 W. King St. Though we could have filed tax-exempt documentation on our property in 2009, we did not file that paperwork until November 2012. Our tax-exempt status was granted in 2013 but implementation was delayed until January 2014.
Why would a 501(c)(3) charitable organization delay filing tax-exempt documentation on our property? Because Logos Academy wanted to be a blessing financially to our local community. It was a joy to know that we were financially contributing to provide much needed services to our community.
Suffice it to say that we were surprised when the York County Tax Assessment Bureau performed a spot reassessment of our property in 2013. This was a surprise because we had filed the necessary local and state permits in 2009 and no reassessment was performed when the property was completed in 2010.
What was initially a surprising action quickly escalated into a shocking reality when we received our 2013 tax bill for our property. Between county, municipal and school district taxes we were billed in excess of $150,000 for 2013 alone though we were a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization.
This seemed to us a simple matter to rectify. Therefore, we first went to the county commissioners, who promptly exonerated us of our tax obligation. We went to the York City government, and city council gladly worked out a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). This we were glad to do since the city government provides police, fire and other services for which the school directly benefits.
Lastly, we asked the York City school board to exonerate us of our $116,000 tax liability to the district. On Oct. 27, 2013, we received a letter from the district's assistant business manager stating that the school board had passed the following resolution: "BE IT RESOLVED that the request for exoneration of real estate taxes for Logos Academy for 2013 be approved as presented and attached." To us the matter seemed closed and justice rendered.
One can only imagine the shock we felt when we received a letter on Nov. 7, 2013, stating that the previous letter was in error and that the board had denied the request for exoneration.
We made attempts to meet with school district officials but were told the district solicitor had instructed them not to meet with us.
And so, on April 7, 2014, we wrote a check to the district for $116,938.07 in protest to avoid paying additional penalties, though we believe Logos Academy had no obligation to pay the tax bill. In fact, Logos families now find themselves in the unenviable position of not only having to pay city school taxes for services they don't use, but also now helping to fund a second burdensome tax with their tuition dollars.
We are deeply saddened to see the injustice of tuition and donor dollars allocated to pay an unjust tax bill.
The York County Commissioners and York City government have done what was necessary to restore justice in this matter. We hoped the York City school board would have rectified the matter, as well, instead of perpetuating an injustice against Logos Academy.
We have therefore filed an administrative litigation requesting the Court of Common Pleas of York County to render justice in our favor. Every avenue was pursued to avoid such an action.
Face-to-face meetings were requested and denied. The Logos Board of Directors was willing, and remains willing, to enter into a similar PILOT agreement with the district as we did with city council, but this too was denied.
Logos Academy believes it has always acted in good faith toward the York City School District. We are asking that the district act in good faith and put this unfortunate matter behind us so that we can all get back to the business of educating students for the good of our community.
— Traci Foster and the Rev. Aaron Anderson, on behalf of the Logos Academy Board of Directors.