The Loudoun Board of Supervisors reversed course Dec. 4 by lifting a 5-year-old moratorium on providing property tax exemptions for certain nonprofits or community-bettering organizations.
Through the new process, the private groups can apply for property tax relief through April 1, 2014, for exemptions in the 2015 tax year.
On Nov. 6 the supervisors voted 6-3 to continue the moratorium. But board Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) said, on second thought, he wasn't comfortable with how that process played out, and on Dec. 4 he was able to garner majority support for his new motion.
“I think we have … some folks out there that are doing good work for the community,” York said. “I think that we ought to take an opportunity to truly look and see if we as a board want to provide tax exemption to help them so that they can put that money into the services they provide … ”
Also included in the chairman's new proposal, which passed on a 5-3-1 vote, was for county staff to contact applicants who have submitted applications since 2009 and organizations who have inquired about the tax exempt program.
Vice Chairman Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) and supervisors Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) opposed lifting the moratorium. Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) was absent for the vote.
“I cannot support this,” Reid said. “This is just going to, again, create a situation where we're going to have certain organizations who have enough political influence come to the board and are able to get exemptions.”
Williams said the board shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers.
"Are we in the business of subsidizing?” Williams said “ … Every private organization provides some kind of public service.”
Opponents of the new measure also worry providing tax relief will end up costing the county millions of dollars in revenue.
Some organizations in the county – Falcons Landing retirement community, Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to name a few – were granted property tax relief by previous boards of supervisors.
Supervisor Letourneau said he “doesn't trust” the board to deal with nonprofit groups coming to the board for a subsidy. The board will “rue the day we're going down this road,” he said.
“It's hard to say no when folks come up [for tax relief],” Letourneau voiced. “ … I don't trust us. I don't think we're going to be able to say 'no,' we're going to be the Grinch to so many organizations that come up.”
Chairman York responded by saying, “If you're afraid of making the decision, you're in the wrong place. You're just in the wrong place.”
"I'm going to be very harsh in my looksie when folks come forward,” York said. “I want to see that they're providing a substantial service to the people and citizens of Loudoun County, and that they are providing something whereby if we had to provide that service it's costing us thousands, if not millions, of dollars …”