Greensburg’s Stage Right pulled off auction block, given 1 year to clear up tax-exempt status
Stage Right’s Greensburg headquarters has been saved from the auction block by an order from Westmoreland County Judge Anthony Marsili.
The nonprofit theater group owes nearly $50,000 in property taxes on its Third Street building for 2014 and 2015, according to the county Tax Claims Bureau. In August, the county included the building on a list of tax-delinquent properties to be sold at auction Sept. 12.
Stage Right petitioned Marsili to stay the sale. The organization is pursuing tax-exempt status and may seek exoneration for its back taxes, according to the request filed with the judge. If it does not get the back taxes waived, it will pay them in full, the request said.
Marsili agreed to give Stage Right one year to sort out its tax-exempt status. Its property will not be back on the auction block until September 2017, and then only if it is still delinquent, according to the court order.
Stage Right officials thought their property was tax-exempt, Executive Director Christine Orosz said last month. The organization moved into its offices in 2013, and because of a bureaucratic mix-up on the nonprofit’s part, the building was never taken off the tax rolls, which Orosz said she did not realize until recently.
She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Stage Right had a hearing before the Westmoreland County Tax Assessment Board last week to ask for tax-exempt status, according to attorney Kenneth Burkley, who is representing the nonprofit.
Burkley said a ruling on the request is expected within the next few weeks.
Though he doesn’t “like to put the cart before the horse,” Burkley said he thinks Stage Right’s property is an obvious choice for tax-exempt status. Stage Right is a registered tax-exempt organization federally and in the state.
It “very easily” meets the standards for tax exemption, Burkley said of the property.
“I don’t think this one was even close,” he said. “I felt very good about the evidence we put before the board.”
If Stage Right’s building is declared tax-exempt, the next question is what to do about the back taxes levied before it received that status. The organization may attempt to have them exonerated, since it should have been tax-exempt this whole time, Burkley said.
“Assuming I’m correct and they get the exemption, then they will need to make a decision on whether to ask for exoneration,” he said.
Another Greensburg nonprofit, Loyal Order of Moose 1151 on East Otterman Street, was on the list of properties up for auction due to delinquent taxes but was removed before the sale.
The lodge hadn’t paid its taxes in 2013 or 2014, and owed about $9,000, according to information from the county Tax Claims Bureau.
The lodge worked out a payment plan for its back taxes, leading to its removal from the list, according to the bureau.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or [email protected].