Board of Equalization denies application for tax-exempt status by Friendship Village

A Sunset Hills senior living facility’s application for tax-exempt status on real and personal property was denied Sept. 14 by the St. Louis County Board of Equalization.

Representatives for Friendship Village have appealed that decision to the County Council and hope to have that appeal heard before the end of the year.

To be granted a tax exemption, Friendship Village officials must prove that they are operating a charitable institution on a non-profit basis for an indefinite number of people.

But Lindbergh School District Assistant Superintendent for Finance Pat Lanane, who spoke against the tax-exempt application at an Aug. 10 hearing, said he believes it is clear from the Board of Equalization’s quick decision that Friendship Village is not eligible.

The board originally was scheduled to make a decision on Oct. 12.

“It was kind of a surprise announcement, but I was not surprised at their decision,” Lanane said. “I felt like that it was kind of an open-and-shut case for two reasons. One, that the Missouri Supreme Court had already denied them several years ago their petition.

“And through the evidence that was discussed at the (Aug. 10) hearing, it was clear that while they serve a good public purpose, they are selective in the clientele that they accept.”

Lanane has said that if the facility were to be tax exempt, the school district would lose an estimated $184,166 after the first year and possibly $1 million during the next five years.

Because of the senior living facility’s selective standards for residents, however, Lanane said he does not believe its appeal will be accepted.

“They know their business better than anyone,” Lanane said. “They know what the law is. They have an attorney. Why would they think they qualify?”