At issue are annual payments in lieu of taxes that School Lane Charter School used to make.
The School Lane Charter School says a pending lawsuit by the is “baseless.”
The Bensalem Board of Education on Wednesday approved the filing of a suit over the charter school’s failure to make annual payments to the school district the last two school years. Those payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) payments, board attorney Tom Profy III explained, were agreed to in 1998 when the district sold land to be used for the charter school.
The charter school’s justification for stopping the annual payments is a recently enacted state law that declares PILOT payments from charter schools null and void. A press release from Sylvia Marketing & Public Relations, a public relations agency that represents charter schools nationwide to the media said:
“Charter schools are public schools. Public schools are not required to pay taxes,” reads Friday’s press release. “To make this clear…the legislature passed a law that exempts property owned by charter schools from all real estate taxes. This law also exempts charter schools from having to make payments in lieu of taxes. The law specifically states that all agreements to make payments in lieu of taxes entered into by a charter school before December 31, 2009, are null and void.”
“School Lane Charter School does not owe the district any money, and it will vigorously defend itself from any suit filed by the district,” the release adds.
School Lane Charter School CEO Karen Schade added in the release: “Taxing a school that is operated with tax dollars is a pointless and inefficient use of public resources when the school’s mission is to educate children.”
Profy said Wednesday that the PILOT program is “integral” to the land sale and the district believes the state legislation is unconstitutional.
He said School Lane did not make a $177,500 payment for the 2009-2010 school year and a $184,000 payment for 2010-2011. He said the payments are equal to the school district real estate taxes on the property on Bristol Pike. The district is trying to get that $361,500 along with a court ruling that the annual payments should continue in perpetuity.
Friday’s press release states that representatives of the charter school tried to resolve the issue amicably but the district did not respond.
In response to the pending lawsuit, School Lane Charter School Solicitor Kevin McKenna is reviewing all of the school’s options, according to the release.
The charter school opened in 1998 as the Mosaica Academy Charter School and changed its management company and namesake in 2001.