YMCA of the Rockies granted full property tax exemption | SkyHiNews.com

YMCA of the Rockies granted full property tax exemption

The Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals has granted YMCA of the Rockies a full property tax exemption for religious use after originally denying the exemption. The ruling means that YMCA of the Rockies will avoid paying upward of $200,000 in property taxes annually for its 2,187-acre Snow Mountain Ranch, located outside of Granby. "We are pleased that the Board of Assessment Appeals has aligned their decision with the Court of Appeals and lifted up the YMCA of the Rockies' sincere Christian Mission," said Kent Meyer, CEO of YMCA of the Rockies, in a press release. "This ruling correctly applies both statutory law and Colorado Supreme Court rulings for other nonprofit camps and conference centers to YMCA of the Rockies." The Colorado Court of Appeals struck down the board's original ruling. The latest decision aligns with the Colorado Property Tax Administrator's previous decision to grant YMCA of the Rockies religious and charitable exemptions. The board decided not to rule on the YMCA's charitable tax exemption, though Laura Fields with YMCA of the Rockies said that the additional exemption will have no additional benefit for the organization. County Attorney Anthony "Jack" DiCola will meet with Larimer County attorneys this weekend to determine how the two counties will move ahead, though at this time the county does not have a position on the ruling, said Robert Franek, assistant county attorney. The decision, issued Aug. 1, is retroactive to the 2002 tax year, Fields said. YMCA of the Rockies stopped paying property taxes in 2005, and has instead been putting the money it would have paid aside into savings. If the county chooses not to appeal the latest decision, or if its appeal fails, it will owe YMCA of the Rockies the total amount of property tax paid for 2002, 2003 and half of 2004 for its Snow Mountain Ranch Property, Fields said, though she couldn't say exactly how much that would be. Court of Appeals finds flaws in reversal The Colorado Court of Appeals' decision to vacate the Board of Assessment Appeals' ruling on YMCA of the Rockies' religious exemption found that it was overly narrow and prohibited by the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The board aligned with the court's decision in its Aug. 1 ruling, citing the necessity of avoiding a "narrow construction of property tax exemptions." The board also cited the general assembly's decision that any activities of a religious organization that promote its religious purposes constitute "religious worship." "Applying the law as directed by the Court of Appeals to the facts of this case," the board wrote, "the Board holds that the YMCA is entitled to a religious purpose exemption for all portions of the properties within its applications." The board also held that the properties were not being used for private gain or corporate profit. Counties' dissent relies on Illinois law Both the Grand County and Larimer County boards of commissioners, which appealed the Property Tax Administrator's original decision to allow the exemption, focused on Illinois' religious exemption statute and its similarity of Colorado's. The counties sought to prove that the YMCA had not furnished sufficient proof of religious use for a tax exemption and argued that the case would be resolved against the YMCA under Illinois law. The counties cited cases in the Land of Lincoln's Court of Appeals that found "Christian service" as overbroad in constituting religious purpose for a tax exemption. The board ultimately decided that Colorado's statutes require "a different analysis" than those in Illinois, and that, under Colorado statutes, public officials may not inquire "as to whether particular activities of religious organizations constitute religious worship." The counties may now petition the Court of Appeals for judicial review. They have 49 days to file a notice of appeal. Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

Grand County will appeal YMCA tax case

The Grand County Board of Commissioners has moved to file an appeal in a recent decision to grant Snow Mountain Ranch a full property tax exemption for religious use. The board moved at their Aug. 12 meeting to allow Grand County Attorney Anthony "Jack" DiCola to move forward filing appeal with the Colorado Court of Appeals. DiCola had recommended that Grand County Commissioners appeal the decision from the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals to grant religious use tax exemptions to YMCA of the Rockies, which owns Snow Mountain Ranch. "With taxes, we just want to get it right," DiCola told the Sky-Hi News. "There's really no question that we need an appellate decision on this issue." DiCola, who met with attorneys for Larimer County over the weekend, said during the board meeting that the state constitution contradicts the Board of Assessment Appeals' ruling. "I don't believe the YMCA property is used solely and exclusively for religious purposes," DiCola said. "I believe we should appeal this decision." Larimer County attorneys made the same recommendation to the Larimer County Board of Commissioners at their Aug. 12 meeting, DiCola said. The exemption means that YMCA of the Rockies does not have to pay the more than $200,000 annual property tax bill for its Snow Mountain Ranch Property. It also means that Grand County will have to refund taxes paid in 2002, 2003 and 2004. YMCA of the Rockies, which is headquartered in Estes Park, first applied for religious purposes and charitable use property tax exemptions for two of its properties, Snow Mountain Ranch and the Estes Park Center, in December 2003. The Property Tax Administrator eventually granted both exemptions, though the Board of Assessment Appeals reversed them. The Colorado Court of Appeals vacated the Board of Assessment Appeals' decisions in April 2013. After the appellate ruling, the Board of Assessment Appeals reversed its previous ruling and granted YMCA of the Rockies religious use exemptions. It declined to rule on the charitable exemption. DiCola told the Sky-Hi News that he was frustrated with the Board of Assessment Appeals' decision, and called the board's and the Colorado Property Tax Administrator's handling of the cases a "real failure." He criticized the lengthiness of proceedings and the Board of Assessment Appeals' decision not to rule on the charitable use exemption. DiCola did say that he believed the counties had a chance for a successful appeal. "I wouldn't recommend that we appeal it if I wasn't at least optimistic," DiCola said. Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

EGSD eyes YMCA tax exemption proceedings

An ongoing taxing dispute between the YMCA of the Rockies, Grand and Larimer Counties and various taxing entities in the two counties has officials from the East Grand School District (EGSD) cautiously watching developments and preparing for a potential repayment of over half a million dollars in tax funds from the school district alone. Over the past several months members of the EGSD Board of Education discussed the issue during Board meetings. East Grand Business Manager Donette Schmiedbauer briefed the Board of Education on the subject with updates during the late Feb. Board meeting. As it now stands the YMCA of the Rockies has been ruled tax exempt. Grand and Larimer Counties are appealing the decision. If the appeal is denied local taxing entities such as Grand County and the EGSD will be required to return previously taxed funds to the YMCA. According to Grand County Treasurer Christina Whitmer the funds to be repaid include owed interest, which accrues at a rate of one percent per month. For the EGSD alone the total repayment figure is around $618,000. Grand County would be looking at a repayment total of around $1.3 million. The taxed funds from YMCA were taken during 2003 and half of 2004. The total amount of funds taxed from YMCA during that year and a half period was $531,494.42. The total interest accrued on the taxed funds is $762,622.85 making the possible interest owed greater than the initially taxed total. The Colorado Court of Appeals is currently handling the dispute with both Grand and Larimer County acting on behalf of the other affected taxing entities, such as the EGSD. Grand County Attorney Alan Hassler provided details on the process According to Hassler Grand and Larimer Counties have filed a motion with the Colorado Court of Appeals to reconsider a previous decision from the court that declared the YMCA properties in Grand and Larimer Counties as tax exempt. Hassler said no decision on the motion to reconsider has been received yet and he had no expected timeline. "I hate to second guess the court," Hassler said. The Colorado Court of Appeals most recent decision declaring the YMCA tax-exempt was made on Jan. 22, 2015. If the Court of Appeals denies the motion to reconsider and funds must be repaid to the YMCA Grand and Larimer Counties will administer the process for the various other taxing entities affected by the decision. County Treasurer Whitmer explained that any repayment process would be complex and would depend largely upon when the abatement order would be received. A potential repayment process would be made easier, according to Whitmer, if the abatement were processed in April when the County receives an influx of tax revenue. The County will handle any repayments from entities such as the EGSD. Grand County serves as the collection agent for taxes for entities such as the EGSD. Repayments to the YMCA will likely be covered by withholding tax revenue payments to the EGSD and the other taxing entities. Despite no longer receiving tax funds from the YMCA EGSD Business Manager Schmiedbauer maintains figures on uncollected property taxes related to the YMCA's Grand County property. According to Schmiedbauer's figures if the YMCA were not considered tax exempt the entity would have paid a total of $1,129,010 in taxes to the EGSD alone over the nearly 12 years since it was granted exemption and a total of $2,722670 to all taxing entities affected by the exemption decision. Among the taxing entities affected by the YMCA's tax exemption are: the Colorado River Water Conservancy, East Grand Fire, East Grand School District, Fraser Valley Metro Recreation, Grand County, Middle Park Water Conservancy and the Grand County Library District. The YMCA of the Rockies first applied for religious purposes and charitable use property tax exemptions for its two properties, Snow Mountain Ranch and the Estes Park Center, in Dec. 2003. The Property Tax Administrator granted both exemptions though the Board of Assessment Appeals reversed the decision. In April 2013 the Colorado Court of Appeals vacated the Board of Assessment Appeals' decision. After the appellate ruling the Board of Assessment Appeals reversed their previous decision and granted YMCA of the Rockies religious use exemptions but did not issue a ruling on the charitable exemptions requested by the Y. The Sky-Hi News requested comment from representatives of the YMCA of the Rockies on this story but received no responses as of press time.

YMCA of the Rockies plans to appeal tax ruling

TABERNASH – The YMCA of the Rockies should be paying property taxes for both its Grand and Larimer county locations, according to a Board of Assessment Appeals decision released this week. The case was the latest in a series of property-tax appeals the YMCA has been involved in since 2005. If Grand County’s success in the case were to stick, the YMCA in Grand County would be required to pay about $1.98 million in property taxes dating back to 2002, according to Grand County Treasurer Christina Whitmer. About 60 percent of those funds would be due to the East Grand School District. But the YMCA is already planning to take the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, according to YMCA spokesperson Holly Collingwood. “We were very surprised,” she said of the outcome. “At this point, we do intend to appeal. We truly believe we are a charitable organization. We are disappointed in the ruling because it didn’t appropriately apply Colorado law.” The loss would also mean paying Larimer County roughly $2.7 million in back property taxes. Lodging and recreation The YMCA of the Rockies has been setting aside tax funds in an account during the appeals process, during which it has not been required to pay property taxes, according to Collingwood. If the YMCA had to pay past and future taxes on its Rocky Mountain properties, ultimately, “It would hinder our ability to serve our mission,” she said. Officials in both Grand and Larimer counties have argued that YMCA operations in their respective counties should not be tax exempt for their lodging and recreation offerings, which compete with other lodging facilities offering similar amenities. The counties argued that although the YMCA offers religious and family oriented activities, this does not qualify them for exemptions. YMCA originally claimed its tax exempt status in December 2003, at which time the Property Tax Administrator granted a religious exemption for operating in a “religious” and “charitable” nature. The YMCA is a “Christian organization with a Christian mission. YMCA claims to provide charitable gifts by offering educational programs, creating a Christian environment including religious services, providing the Kidney Center, supplying handicap accessible facilities, helping establish young people in life through character development and lessening the burdens of government by providing facilities free of charge or for a nominal fee to government agencies,” reads the Board of Assessment Appeals factual findings. The 5,000-acre nonprofit 501(c)3 YMCA of the Rockies “year-round family vacation and conference center” in Grand County has 52 cabins, 173 lodging rooms, four yurts, 41 campsites, as well as staff housing, an indoor pool, gymnasium, a library, a skate rink, trails, dining halls, laundromat, chapel, conference facility, maintenance and administration building. Dueling appeals After Grand and Larimer counties successfully appealed the organization’s religious status in a 2006 case, the YMCA instead sought a charitable tax exemption for all of its Grand County property, save for the year-round staff housing property and the private concessionaire areas such as the photo park and horse stables. Contrary to a third ruling, the most recent ruling found that the organization is not entitled to the charitable exemption. The Grand County YMCA ranch employs about 280 seasonal summer workers, 50 full-time workers year-round, and about 90 summer volunteers. The lodging facilities available for rent are “purposely sparsely decorated, with the majority lacking televisions, to encourage family interaction,” reads testimony from Neil Nicholl, president of the YMCA of the USA. During the three-day June hearing in Denver, with Grand County Attorney Jack DiCola and Assistant County Attorney Bob Franek representing Grand County, Grand County Assessor Tom Weydert testified that he “does not consider YMCA to be a charity.” He, like other witnesses in DiCola’s case, compared the YMCA to other operations that are taxed. “Winding River Ranch is hundreds of acres in size and immediately adjacent to a National Park with a wide range of accommodations, including RVs, campers, huts, and full-facility cabins,” the order recounts Weydert’s testimony. The Grand Lake-area resort also offers religious facilities and services, cross-country skiing, nature educational activities and a staffed craft area, he said. Devil’s Thumb Ranch, a private for-profit resort, offers hiking, biking, fishing, interpretive programs and wedding areas for guests. It has a library, recreation room geared to kids, a pool and no televisions in rooms, according to testimony from Winter Park-Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Catherine Ross. Although it is not considered a “religious”-based operation, the owners “donate extensively to the community,” she said. Both Ross and Granby Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sharon Brenner said they market YMCA’s Snow Mountain Ranch the same as they do other lodging properties. The Inn at SilverCreek holds conferences and markets to families, youth groups and church groups. For government agencies, it makes conference facilities available at no fee or a nominal fee of no more than $100, said witness Cheryl Shipe, director of operations of Alderwood Management Group, which manages the Inn at SilverCreek. “YMCA is its largest competitor,” Shipe’s testimony reads. The Board of Assessment Appeals ruling was based on a “lack of persuasive evidence regarding participation of families in charitable activities” on the part of the YMCA, according to the Order. The Board also noted that “sufficient record-keeping and information on YMCA’s actual use of property” was not presented in a manner that proved their percentage of charitable use. “It is impossible to know exactly how many hours qualified for non-exempt use,” the Order reads. Although more than half of the local YMCA’s back property taxes would be collected by the East Grand School District, Superintendent Nancy Karas said the years of uncollected taxes would be obligated in various ways. It’s possible some of the money could come back to taxpayers in the form of a reduction in property tax, she said, for the portion of past school bond payments that would be covered by the YMCA. Exactly how much of the money would be leftover for general school-district operations has not yet been calculated, as the YMCA gears up for another appeal. – Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

Grand County Snow Mountain Ranch property retains tax exempt status

The local governments of Grand County derive their funding from multiple different sources from sales taxes to licensing fees to grants from the State and Federal government. But the single largest share of most of the tax revenue used to operate our governing institutions comes from taxies levied on property. For several years now the tax status of the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch property in Grand County has been in a sort of legal limbo as County officials have filed legal challenges to its tax-exempt status. All that changed recently when the Colorado Supreme Court decided not to review a Colorado Court of Appeals decision declaring the YMCA properties in both Grand and Larimer Counties as tax-exempt. The decision by the Colorado Supreme Court not to review the Court of Appeals decision means the lower court ruling, which declared the YMCA properties as tax-exempt, stands. That means Grand and Larimer Counties have no further legal recourse to contest the ruling. PAYBACK The governments of Grand and Larimer Counties will now be required to return previously taxed monies, derived from taxes levied on YMCA properties during 2002, 2003 and half of 2004, to the YMCA. For Grand County alone that figure is roughly $1.3 million. The East Grand School District accounts for the single largest portion of the total repayment figure at around $620,000. According to officials from East Grand a significant portion of the repayment costs are derived from interest accrued on the funds that were taxed in 2002, 2003 and 2004. While the decision by the Colorado Supreme Court not to review the Court of Appeals ruling ends potential legal challenges to the tax-exemption of the YMCA there has been no formal ruling on how to move forward and officials are still working out the specifics of how repayment will be handled and when. Grand County Manager Lee Staab sent an email to the Grand County taxing entities affected by the Colorado Supreme Court decision on Tuesday Dec. 6. The affected entities include: Grand County, the East Grand School District (EGSD), the East Grand Fire Protection District, the Fraser Valley Metro Recreation District, the Middle Park Water Conservancy District, the Grand County Library District and the Colorado River Water Conservancy District. In the email sent to local taxing entities Staab states, "The affected governments must refund taxes collected in 2002, 2003, and the first half of 2004, plus interest." Staab goes on to state, "The next step for the Board (of County Commissioners) is to arrange a meeting with you, the affected taxing districts, to discuss scheduling of repayment to the YMCA the taxes received in prior years and the accrued interest." EAST GRAND Officials from the EGSD are not quite sure how all this will shake out. "We have a lot of options we still need to look at," said EGSD Superintendent Frank Reeves. "At worst it will get paid next year by the County withholding tax money they would have sent to us." Reeves went on to explain the EGSD could potentially have their share of the repayment covered by funds from the Colorado State Department of Education. "We are really no fault in this at all," Reeves said. "We don't decide who is taxed, we just collect the money that is taxed." But Reeves added, "We met with our attorney's last week to find out what options we have to repay this and quite honestly to see how we can prevent it from being a burden on the taxpayers." HISTORY The current iteration of the YMCA tax-exemption legal battle was initiated in the spring of this year when Grand and Larimer Counties filed briefs with the Colorado Supreme Court requesting a review of the Court of Appeals decision. The legal proceedings surrounding the tax-exempt status of the YMCA properties have been ongoing for over a decade now though. The initial proceedings resulted from a unique set of circumstances occurring in the early aughts. Throughout 2002, 2003 and for half of 2004 Grand and Larimer Counties assessed taxes on property owned by the YMCA organization. In Dec. 2003 YMCA of the Rockies applied for tax exempt status for its two regional properties, Snow Mountain Ranch in Grand County and the Estes Park Center in Larimer County. The 2003 application for tax-exempt status was for religious purposes and charitable use property tax exemptions. The YMCA properties were initially granted tax-exempt status but the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals reversed the decision, effectively declaring the properties not tax-exempt. That decision was brought before the Colorado Court of Appeals that issued a ruling in April 2013 vacating the Board of Assessment Appeals' decision. After the appellate court ruling in 2013 the Board of Assessment Appeals reversed their previous decision and granted YMCA of the Rockies religious use exemptions but did not issue a ruling on the charitable exemptions requested by the YMCA. On Jan. 22, 2015 the Colorado Court of Appeals reaffirmed the tax-exempt status of the properties.

YMCA of the Rockies donates tax interest to Grand County after lawsuit

Following a legal battle that lasted more than a decade, it was announced this week that YMCA of the Rockies will donate a portion of tax interest payments back to Grand County. YMCA of the Rockies, which has locations in Larimer and Grand counties, announced it will donate a total of $1,098,948.76, split between the two counties. The crux of the legal battle was YMCA's claim that taxes were improperly levied upon its institution, which is considered a nonprofit religious organization, from 2002 to 2004. The donation represents 50 percent of the total interest repayment both counties were legally obligated to repay to YMCA, according to the announcement from Snow Mountain Ranch in Grand County. The remaining 50 percent of the interest payments will be kept by YMCA to cover a portion of the legal fees incurred while arbitrating the tax issue. "Grand County is pleased to put this matter behind us and focus our energies on serving our constituents," said Lee Staab, Grand County Manager. "We hope to work together with the YMCA of the Rockies to serve our community in the future." The county government serves as the property tax collection entity for multiple special districts that were also impacted by the taxing dispute with YMCA. While the county's own budget was impacted by the proceedings, East Grand School District had the single largest individual share of the repayment figure — $646,434 — of which $392,419 derives from accrued interest. "I thought that was a pretty good olive branch," said Frank Reeves, East Grand Superintendent. "When I heard, I was pleasantly surprised they thought of giving that much back." Reeves said the donation now brings the issue to a close, for which he was grateful. "We have a great relationship with the Y," Reeves admitted. "This sort of thing could strain relationships so I am glad this is over. Not having this looming over us is worth every penny." Julie Watkins, chief executive of YMCA of the Rockies, said the repayment is part of furthering YMCA's overall goals. "YMCA of the Rockies is pleased to provide this donation as we continue to focus on our mission of putting Christian principles into practice through programs, staff and facilities in an environment that builds healthy spirit, mind and body for all," Watkins stated. "We look forward to a bright future in both of the counties we are blessed to serve." A YMCA of the Rockies spokesperson declined to provide additional comment as to why YMCA chose to donate the funds to Grand and Larimer counties. From 2002 to mid-2004, property taxes were levied on the Snow Mountain Ranch property in Grand County and an additional YMCA property in Larimer County. In December 2003, YMCA of the Rockies applied for a tax exempt status. That request was approved, reversed, appealed then reaffirmed. After roughly 13 years in limbo, the legal question was decisively answered last December when the Colorado Supreme Court declined to review a lower court's decision exempting the properties.

YMCA tax payback has East Grand School District eyeing tax hike

Administrators from the East Grand School District are closely watching ongoing negotiations between Grand County government and YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch over the repayment of taxes improperly levied on the property between 2002 and 2004. All told, various governmental entities and special districts in Grand County are on the hook for roughly $1.3 million in taxes and accrued interest that are owed to YMCA. Of that, the school district's repayment figure is the single largest individual share, totaling $646,434 and including $254,015 in previously taxed money and $392,419 in interest. REPAYMENT Because negotiations are ongoing, officials from East Grand do not know the exact figure they will be required to repay. Interest continues to accrue on the overall principle amount at a rate of seven to eight thousand dollars monthly. Additionally East Grand business manager Donette Schmiedbauer said she does not know if YMCA will require repayment of the total amount, including the originally taxed funds and the interest accrued, or if YMCA will forgive the interest and require only repayment of the principle. Schmiedbauer said that when negotiations are completed East Grand's portion of the repayment funds will be dispersed to YMCA by Grand County government. The payment will be derived from property taxes that would normally go to the school district but will instead be withheld by the county and paid to YMCA. Schmiedbauer anticipates the process will occur this spring and said the district would be able to weather the brief storm and pay all bills because of the current level of reserves. The school district may come to taxpayers some time over the next nine months to ask citizens to approve a tax increase to cover the lost revenues — increasing the mill levy rate within the district by 1.2441 mills. East Grand superintendent Frank Reeves said the District Board of Education must make its decision on that issue before Dec. 10, when the district's mill levy must be certified. Schmiedbauer calculated what such a potential tax increase would look like if the district asks citizens to recoup the lost funds. Residential property would see an additional $9.60 in taxes for every $100,000 in assessed property value. Commercial property would see an additional $36.08 in taxes for every $100,000 in assessed value. LOST REVENUE Additionally, lost tax revenue complicates the entire situation. The state determines a total funding amount for each school district. If property taxes do not generate enough revenue to reach the state's funding total for a given district, the state, in theory, backfills the remaining portion. The East Grand funding total is based on a capped number of mills and an assessed valuation of property within the district. After YMCA was granted tax exemption in 2004, the property remained on the district's assessed valuation but was not taxed. Superintendent Reeves said that if YMCA had not been listed on the district's assessed valuations, other property owners within the district would have paid more in property taxes and the state would have been required to backfill a larger portion of the district's overall budget. District officials estimate the dynamic resulted in a loss of roughly $80,000 in tax revenue annually. HISTORY In 2002, 2003 and through half of 2004, property taxes were levied on the Snow Mountain Ranch property just south of Granby and another YMCA property in Larimer County. In December 2003, the YMCA of the Rockies applied for tax exemption on both of its Colorado properties, Snow Mountain Ranch and the Estes Park Center, for religious and charitable use purposes. Exemptions were granted for both properties; however, the Board of Assessment Appeals reversed the decision. That decision was appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which issued a ruling in April 2013 vacating the Board of Assessment Appeals' reversal. After the ruling the Board of Assessment Appeals reversed its previous decision conferring tax-exempt status on the properties once again. In January 2015 the Colorado Court of Appeals reaffirmed the tax-exempt status of YMCA properties. The governments of Grand and Larimer County requested the Colorado Supreme Court review the lower court's ruling. In late 2016 the State Supreme Court declined to review the decision, finalizing the process and ensuring YMCA's continued tax exemption.

State considers YMCA tax exemption case

The YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch tax exemption case may soon be headed to the Colorado Supreme Court. Grand County government attorney Alan Hassler confirmed Monday both Grand and Larimer Counties have filed briefs with the Colorado Supreme Court asking the court to review the case. Hassler said the court was fully briefed on the request for review last week and the counties are now awaiting a decision from the Court on whether or not the Justices will hear the case. Hassler said he had no estimated timeline on when he expects a decision from the court. He stressed the fact that the pending decision from the state Supreme Court pertains only to whether or not the court will review the case. If the court does decide to move forward with a review of the dispute Grand and Larimer Counties will file additional briefs with the court lining out their positions on the subject as will YMCA of the Rockies and their legal counsel. If the Colorado Supreme Court declines to hear the case it means Grand and Larimer Counties will have no additional recourse on the subject through state courts. The legal proceedings are the result of a unique set of circumstances involving YMCA of the Rockies. Throughout 2003 and half of 2004 the facilities operated by YMCA of the Rockies in Grand and Larimer Counties were taxed by local authorities. In Dec. 2003 YMCA of the Rockies applied for tax exemption on its two regional properties, Snow Mountain Ranch in Grand County and the Estes Park Center in Larimer County. After initially being granted exemption the Board of Assessment Appeals reversed the decision. The Colorado Court of Appeals then vacated the Board of Assessment Appeal's decision in April 2013. The Colorado Court of Appeals reaffirmed the tax-exempt status of the properties in Jan. 2015. The tax-exempt status of the properties means that taxes levied on the institutions through 2003 and 2004 are owed back to YMCA of the Rockies from the various taxing entities. For Grand County alone that repayment figure is roughly $1.3 million. The East Grand School District (EGSD) is looking at a total repayment figure of around $618,000. East Grand's Business Manager Donette Schmiedbauer maintains figures on the amount of property tax the EGSD would have received from Snow Mountain Ranch had the property not been declared tax exempt, roughly $1,129,000. As the matter winds its way through the legal system East Grand is looking to cover budget shortfalls the District feels resulted from the unique taxing circumstances related to the Snow Mountain Ranch property. Local school districts throughout the state are funded through a myriad of complex programs and streams under the larger umbrella of the 1994 Public School Finance Act of Colorado. Recently the EGSD Board of Education approved a resolution requesting supplemental funding assistance from the Colorado State Board of Education's contingency fund. The EGSD is seeking $638,209 from the State's contingency fund, which is the amount of money the EGSD feels the District failed to collect under the School Finance Act as a result of the confusion surrounding Snow Mountain Ranch's tax status. Schmiedbauer explained the State's contingency fund is set aside for school districts that find themselves with financial needs that are unlikely to be met through other sources. She said she did not know if the State would approve the request, considering the fact that EGSD is not in extremely dire financial straits. "We aren't bankrupt and haven't gone through reserves," she said. Schmiedbauer expressed her belief the State will be required to backfill the $638,000 to the school district if YMCA if found tax-exempt and no additional appeals are made regarding the issue. "However this shakes out they could possibly owe us," Schmiedbauer said.

YMCA of the Rockies welcomes back Trueman Hoffmeister as director

A familiar friendly face will be returning to YMCA of the Rockies’ Snow Mountain Ranch. Trueman Hoffmeister, who has worked with multiple nonprofit organizations, YMCA’s and religious based camps, has been named the new Snow Mountain Ranch Center Director. This position was formerly held by Julie Watkins, who has become the Vice President for Association Advancement. Trueman has a degree in American Humanities, training for nonprofit business. After directing two YMCA camps in New York and New Hampshire, he joined YMCA of the Rockies’ as Director of Camp Chief Ouray from 1997-2003. In 2003, Trueman was hired by the Charlotte YMCA to complete the construction of and open their new 2,160 acre conference/camp facility, Herring Ridge/Camp Harrison. He oversaw the completion of construction, assembled the initial staff, created the program for the resident camp and environmental education, developed the annual campaign, and recruited conference groups and campers. After five years at Herring Ridge, Trueman became the director of the Bridgeport UMC Conference Center in Bridgeport, Texas. In his three years with the United Methodist Church, he expanded the conference business, turned around the deficit budget, and raised the resources for and oversaw the construction of new facilities. YMCA of the Rockies’ President and CEO Kent Meyer is “very excited to welcome Trueman back to the YMCA of the Rockies. He is bringing a broadened experience since being our Camp Chief Ouray Director and has a long history with the YMCA on a national level. All of which will help continue to fulfill our Mission at YMCA of the Rockies.” Julie Watkins has spent the last 25 years at Snow Mountain Ranch, 15 years as the Human Resources Director and 10 years as the Center Director. In Julie’s new position, she will handle special projects, such as YMCA of the Rockies’ agreement with Project Sanctuary to raise funds for a permanent facility at Snow Mountain Ranch, and will lead the planning process for the Association, focusing on Snow Mountain Ranch. She will also oversee human resources policy and staff development for the Association. Julie will be splitting her time between the Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch. YMCA of the Rockies opened its first location in the early 1900s as a summer training center. Today its properties total nearly 6,000 acres and are used by groups, families, individuals, and summer campers. YMCA of the Rockies is a 501 (C) (3) non-profit organization which works with numerous individuals and other charitable organizations to help families, youth, individuals, and groups grow. Learn more about YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park Center, Snow Mountain Ranch, and Camp Chief Ouray at http://www.ymcarockies.org.

East Grand projects $700k budget surplus

Multiple projects are on the docket for East Grand School District, from roof repair work at Granby Elementary to irrigation work at Fraser Valley. But as the month moves towards its close, lead administrators are focusing on finalizing the district budget for the coming year. The budget proposal will go back before the East Grand Board of Education on June 20 for anticipated final approval. The total district budget for the 2017-2018 school year is projected at $12,767,644. The total is a significant jump from last year's budget total of $12,231,438, representing a one-year budget increase of $536,206. This is the single largest year-to-year increase in the budget for East Grand over the past three years. The jumped in funding was spurred in part by a pair State Senate bills that passed through the Colorado Legislature this year, Senate Bill 296 and Senate Bill 267. The two bills increased school funding in different ways with one bill increasing the state's Per Pupil Funding figure and the other providing a one-time influx of funding to rural schools, hospitals and transportation networks. That bill provides East Grand with an extra $259,000 for the coming school year. When that is added to the increase in Per Pupil Revenue, climbing to $7,739 next year from this year's figure of $7,501.20. The State provides significant funding to school districts, a little over $4 million of East Grand's total budget next year, and the Per Pupil Revenue figure is used to determine how much each school gets. The number of students is multiplied by the Per Pupil Revenue figure to determine a total funding amount. On the flip side East Grand is anticipating total revenues for the next year at $13,499,400. Revenues are broken down into sources with East Grand receiving the lion's share of next year's budget from local taxpayers, totaling $8,720,770. Taxpayers for the State of Colorado are footing $4,147,561 of the total budget bill while the Federal government's share comes in at $395,500. For 2017-2018 both local and state revenues increased for East Grand from last year's totals, by $230,000 and $1.8 million respectively. Federal revenues however decreased drastically, by more than 50 percent of last year's total, dropping from $812,262 in 2016/2017 and falling $417,762. While budgets often change over the course of a year; based on revenue and expenditure projections East Grand is anticipating a budget surplus at the end of next year of $731,755. That represents a significant change from this school year, which saw East Grand end with a budget deficit of $363,426. According to East Grand senior administrators, Superintendent Frank Reeves and Business Manager Donette Schmiedbauer, the budget deficit from this school year was entirely attributable to the district's requirement to repay property taxes to YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch. During the last school year Grand County, which serves as the tax collection entity for property taxes levied within the school district, withheld $531,000 in revenues from the district that were paid directly to YMCA. The payments were effectively court mandates and were to cover property taxes improperly levied on the nonprofit religious institution fro 2002 to 2004. According to district officials without the tax withholding East Grand would have had a budget surplus this year of roughly $150,000. The taxing status of YMCA created another budgetary issue for East Grand. The property was taxed from 2002 to 2004. Afterwards no additional property taxes were levied on YMCA while its taxing status was decided in court. Normally when a large property like YMCA is designated as tax exempt the State of Colorado recognizes that exemption and backfills a portion of the property taxes that would otherwise have gone to the local school district. Because YMCA's tax status was in limbo though the state did not backfill uncollected property taxes. According to district officials from 2004 to the end of the legal battle in Dec. 2016 East Grand lost out on roughly $885,000 in revenues from the state. Because the YMCA litigation was ongoing and the state did not formally recognize the district as losing property tax revenue no backfilling occurred. "We found out the CDE does not support us collecting the money back from the state, even though we feel they owe it to us through the school finance formula," Reeves said. District officials lobbied the State Department of Education this year for the funds but were denied. Superintendent Reeves said the district might enact a tax abatement next year to cover the lost revenue; if that does occur local taxpayers could potentially see a one time increase in their mill levy, occurring next year. The formal decision on abatement will be made by the Board of Education at the first meeting in December, when the Board normally addresses mill levy rates for the coming year.