Supervisors grant property tax relief for two GOP-friendly groups
The tax exemptions were approved Sept. 17 along with nearly 20 local nonprofits, including Loudoun Cares, Boulder Crest Retreat, The ARC of Loudoun and the local Habitat for Humanity. While the local benefit of those well-known nonprofits is relatively clear, the impact Landmark Legal and the Home School Foundation have on the Loudoun community is more open for debate.
Levin's foundation, based in Leesburg, will be relieved of more than $8,500 in real estate and personal property taxes, while the Home School Foundation, located on the campus of Patrick Henry College, will be excused of approximately $130 in personal property taxes.
Landmark Legal “is a conservative non-profit 501(c)3 legal advocacy group, with a $1 million annual budget,” according to Wikipedia. “Through litigation and direct interfacing with government agencies, it advances a platform of limited government.”
The Home School Foundation, according to its website, is the charitable arm of Farris's Home School Legal Defense Association. The foundation's vision is “to be a tool increasingly used by God both to address the financial hardships that hinder families from homeschooling and to bless the homeschool community.”
Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), who chairs the board's finance committee, said he and the majority of his colleagues approved the applications because the total amount of new revenue lost to the county was only approximately $325,000, well less than a supervisors-implemented cap on tax exemptions.
Opposing the action was Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), who generally votes against tax exemptions, while Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) abstained, saying he didn't agree with the process used to select the applicants.
The board's vote makes this the first year since 2008 the county has excused nonprofits from property taxes. In December 2013, supervisors lifted a five-year moratorium on providing the tax relief.
Explaining his support for the tax exemptions, Buona told the Times-Mirror the board basically approved whatever staff recommended, with the exception of one.
“I went through all these applications … ” Buona said during the Sept. 17 business meeting. “My belief is that a nonprofit applying for this exemption should be very directly benefiting Loudoun citizens.”
Yet when asked about Landmark Legal's direct benefit to Loudoun's residents, Buona said he wasn't sure.
The lone organization denied an exemption was Wikimedia, the parent company of information hub Wikipedia. Wikimedia's denial came after erroneous information was advanced, and then retracted, by Commissioner of Revenue Bob Wertz. Wertz told supervisors Wikimedia has ties to the controversial Wikileaks organization, which is untrue. The revenue commissioner apologized for his mistake Sept. 17.
Buona said Loudoun supervisors rejected Wikimedia's request because they didn't see a specific benefit to county residents. Wikimedia submitted the application for tax relief because the company stores a significant amount of data in data centers in Loudoun.
Landmark Legal, the Home School Foundation and the other new, tax-exempt organizations join several other operations that have long-held tax relief agreements with the county, including: the Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute ($2.8 million); the Air Force Retired Officers Community ($1.05 million); the Prison Fellowship Ministries ($256,000); and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation ($117,000).
To view a full list of organizations exempted from property taxes, click here and scroll down.
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