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Westmoreland commissioners reach tax deal with children's charity

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Westmoreland County commissioners are set to vote on a settlement on Thursday that would permit a Unity charity to pay a percentage of real estate taxes.

American Association of Lost Children President Mark Miller said the settlement reached by the parties calls for him to pay 10 percent — about $150 annually.

“I'm thankful that we had come to some kind of compromise agreement,” Miller said Tuesday.

The nonprofit that helps families find lost children has been asking the courts for years to be exempted from having to pay property taxes. Miller said funds must be raised for the association to be able to pay its taxes, so the reduction will be helpful.

Chairman Charles Anderson said the county has not altered its position, which challenged the organization's contention that it used the property for charitable purposes.

The settlement has met the approval of the Greater Latrobe School District and Unity.

Anderson said the county generally follows a policy of endorsing reduced tax payments that are already approved by the home municipality and school district. “As long as they agree it is our policy to do that, we go along with it,” Anderson said.

A property tax appeal filed in February 2008 by the nonprofit was denied by a Westmoreland County judge who ruled that the organization failed to meet guidelines for taxes to be waived.

The judge said that the agency did not show during a September 2008 hearing that it saved government agencies money, a requirement of exemption.

In January 2010, the association again appealed its property tax assessment. A verbal agreement apparently was reached during an evidentiary hearing July 25, 2011, Judge Anthony Marsili noted in a January 2013 order.

The order scheduled a status conference for March 21 because a written settlement had not been filed.

Greater Latrobe School District directors have approved the agreement, Solicitor Ned Nakles said.

“We all thought it was a fair outcome for all the parties,” he said.

Unity Solicitor Gary Falatovich did not return a phone call seeking comment.

American Association for Lost Children works to locate and find children who are abducted.

Miller moved operations in 2003 from Texas and was granted a waiver for the state sales tax in 2007 from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Since the association was founded in 1987 by Miller, more than 145 rescues have been conducted in the United States and abroad.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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