The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 11, 2013

Police lodge wins tax-exemption appeal

Dave Sutor

EBENSBURG — A Fraternal Order of Police lodge has regained its tax-exempt status from the Cambria County Board of Assessment Appeals.

FOP Flood City Lodge 86 owns a remote and hilly piece of property in Lower Yoder Township where more than 150 law enforcement officers from 16 agencies in Cambria and Somerset counties train.

When the organization bought the land a few years ago, members assumed their tax-exempt designation from when the lodge was at other locations would remain intact.

However, the status was attached to the properties, not the organization.

The Flood City lodge then requested tax exemption from Cambria County, Greater Johnstown School District and Lower Yoder in 2011. The township objected at the time.

The request was rejected without a reason being given.

On Friday, the lodge gained tax-exempt status during an appeals hearing before Judge Patrick Kiniry.

“It’s very important for the FOP,” said Dennis McGlynn, the attorney for the local lodge.

“They are a charity, and the taxes of $2,400 or $2,500 a year is a lot of money to an institution like that,” McGlynn said. “Their funds come from dues and fundraisers. It really will help them financially.”

The lodge, assessment agency and three taxing bodies had reached an agreement before the hearing.

“Once presented with all of the facts, everyone agreed that they are tax-exempt,” McGlynn said.

Law enforcement officers use the facility for training in areas such as firearm qualification, Special Emergency Response Team exercises and K-9 classes.

The property’s secluded nature does not provide for public access. No social functions are held there. Any money raised through fees and/or fund drives supports the lodge.

“When we got the discovery (exchange of information between the parties), that was when we were able to make that determination,” assessment board solicitor Thomas Swope said.

“We weren’t sure what they were using the property for,” Swope said. “But once we were able to make that determination, it was clear they’re not there generating funds. Any money that they do generate goes back into the organization to help train the local police, which, in turn, alleviates the need for each local police department to provide their own training.”

All of the local FOP’s properties had been tax-exempt.

“There’s a history there or a precedent there,” Swope said.

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