Chesterton Tribune



State upholds ruling that Local 6787 hall taxable

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The Indiana Board of Tax Review has upheld a local finding, by the Porter County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA), that the union hall and the Duneland Falls meeting and banquet facility owned by United Steelworkers Local 6787 are not tax-exempt.

In 2008 and then again in 2010, Local 6787 sought a 100-percent exemption for the 12,000-square foot union hall and a partial exemption for the 22,000-square foot Duneland Falls, on the ground that, inasmuch as the union fulfills its “intended purposes,” as stipulated in its bylaws, “it would likely qualify as having a charitable purpose.”

PTABOA rejected both petitions and determined the two buildings to be 100-percent taxable. Local 6787 subsequently appealed PTABOA’s rulings before the Board of Tax Review (BTR).

On Friday, Jan. 16, BTR issued a finding upholding each ruling.

Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder released this statement to the Chesterton Tribune after deadline on Thursday: “A great deal of time and resources were exhausted in order to insure that Porter County was following a law in denying a property-tax exemption for the United Steelworkers. The (Indiana Board of Tax Review) confirmed that the county is indeed lawful in denying the exempt application. I am hopeful that we can both move on and continue good service to the citizens of Porter County.”

The crux of Local 6787’s argument for a tax exemption is its contention that the union does fulfill a charitable purpose “as broadly construed (i.e., spiritually, physically, intellectually, socially, and economically advancing mankind in general, or those in need of advancement and benefits in particular”).

In evidence of that charitable purpose, Local 6787 cited among other things the following:

* In 2008, confronted by ArcelorMittal’s notification of impending layoffs--projected to impact 2,444 of the 3,200 union employees at the Burns Harbor facility--Local 6787 negotiated a layoff minimization plan (LMP) which “allowed all of the members of the union to retain their employment.” That LMP relieved government of the need to provide laid-off workers with unemployment benefits and thus provided both the Steelworkers and “the communities of Northwest Indiana with enhanced job and economic security,” Local 6787 argued.

* Local 6787 provides the families of Steelworkers on active duty with the Armed Services $400 per month in aid from its food bank.

* Local 6787 is the “largest funding source for the United Way of Porter County,” donating a total of $782,000 to United Way between 2010 and 2012.

* Local 6787 “takes an active role in charitable activities by raising money for breast cancer awareness, holding smoking cessation classes, participating in Toys for Tots and Steelworkers for Kids, contributing to food bank, and financially supporting healthier lifestyles.”

For its part, the Porter County Assessor’s Office maintained that, while Local 6787’s activities “may have some charitable and educational aspects,” the union’s main function is to promote members’ interests as they relate to their employment with the company.”

The Assessor’s Office also noted that union activities are not tax-exempt under state law and argued that, “if the legislature had intended union activities to be exempt, it would have provided a specific exemption for that use.”

In its Jan. 16 ruling, BTR concluded that “the evidence” indicates that Local 6787 “expends the majority of its time and resources in the negotiation and implementation of the (basic labor agreement) between the union and the company.”

Or, put another way, “the union’s actions are in furtherance of the members’ private interests rather than out of altruistic or philanthropic motives.”

Thus, for example, BTR found that Local 6787’s efforts to prevent closures or layoffs do benefit “the entire community” but that those benefits are “incidental” to those “conferred on the members.”

As it happens, Local 6787 also sought an exemption for the Duneland Falls facility in 2006. PTABOA rejected that one as well and found the building to be 100-percent taxable. Local 6787 appealed that ruling too. BTR upheld PTABOA in 2009.



Posted 1/23/2015




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