RUTLAND – The Rutland County Parent-Child Center has prevailed in its long-running legal battle with the city over taxes.
The Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday that the nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services for children and families does not have to pay property taxes in the city.
That bill for this tax year would total $25,000, according to City Assessor Barry Keefe.
“Our ruling holds that all of the RCPCC activities satisfy the public use test and are uses that make RCPCC’s property exempt from property taxes,” the decision read.
Mary Zigman, RCPCC executive director, praised the high court’s ruling.
“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court recognized the public value of services provided by the center. RCPCC is not a daycare center, as the city claimed,” Zigman said in a statement. “It is an early childhood education program that ensures children are kindergarten-ready, and provides wrap-around services tailored to the individual needs of our families.”
RCPCC has 35 full-time employees, and provides services to about 1,100 families in Rutland County each year, the statement added.
The RCPCC has two locations in the city, one on Chaplin Avenue and the other on Pleasant Street.
The Chaplin Avenue site has two different buildings valued at $370,600 and $51,400, Keefe said. The Pleasant Street property has a value of $371,700, he added.
The legal dispute began in 2013 when RCPCC sought a tax exemption for the properties. The city’s tax assessor in early 2014 determined that the properties did not qualify for such an exemption.
After continuing to make the case through administrative appeals and then a later bench trial in Superior Court, a judge ruled in favor of RCPCC, finding their properties were exempt.
The city appealed, arguing, in part, that the RCPCC services only a small group of people, not the community at-large,
“Thus, according to the City’s reasoning, the primary use of each of these properties benefits a definite, rather than indefinite, class,” the decision read, in explaining part of the city’s position.
However, the Supreme Court disagreed that was a reason to deny the organization the exempt status from property taxes.
“If we accepted this argument,” the ruling stated, “virtually no service provider could ever obtain a property tax exemption. There is nothing in the legislative language that supports such a distinction, and our decisions clearly reject it.”
RCPCC is one of 15 parent-child centers in Vermont, and offers programs dedicated to providing support services to pregnant and parenting youth, the families of young children, and young children themselves.
Many of the programs are administered and funded by the state, according to the decision, although some participants in one of the programs pay for the services they receive.
Rutland City Attorney Matthew Bloomer could not be reached Tuesday for comment. Charles Romeo, who was the city attorney at the time and handled the appeal, is now in private practice and also could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Jack Kennelly, the attorney who represented the organization in the appeal, declined comment, referring questions to Zigman.