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A threat to Geer Village Senior Community’s not-for-profit tax exemption status

For over 80 years, Geer has played in integral role in caring for the elderly in and around North Canaan. Geer provides a community within the town for  our employees, volunteers and the people we serve.

We want our community to be aware of a serious threat to our mission and the services we provide. Without warning or reason, the North Canaan Assessor’s Office is refusing to recognize Geer’s lawful tax-exempt status, which the town appropriately recognized for the past 80 years.  As a result, Geer could be facing an increase of over $500,000 per year in taxes. This is in addition to the $33,000 in taxes per year that we already pay to the town for some taxable property, unrelated to our tax-exempt status.

Recent years have been increasingly turbulent and challenging for senior care providers.  As a mission-based, non-profit organization, we struggle more than the for-profit sector but we have persevered. We, however, cannot similarly find a way to withstand this recent blow.  

If the assessor’s decision to change Geer’s tax status stands, it will force Geer to cut back its services and its workforce. This puts into jeopardy many programs, such as senior Dial-A-Ride, that Geer partially subsidizes. Each year, the Geer Dial-A-Ride provides over 6,000 rides to medical appointments, shopping and other vital services for seniors. This program not only serves North Canaan, but five towns across the Northwest Corner.   

Each of these communities contribute funding for Dial-A-Ride, and each of them will feel the same kind of impact of losing senior transportation services, as will North Canaan.

In addition to the many services that Geer delivers, we are also an important economic driver in Canaan. For example: one-third of our 330 employees live in town; over $3 million of our entire payroll supports Canaan families directly; and we spend over half a million dollars annually on local goods and services. Even if you don’t use a Geer service directly, you likely benefit from Geer’s presence and local economic impact, or will in the future.

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This surprise assessment will be devastating to Geer, our 330 employees and the thousands of people we serve and the North Canaan community at large. We have attempted to open a dialogue with the town, with little success. Nothing has changed at Geer to warrant this revised status.  It appears that the town’s new consulting tax assessor is the only change in the equation. 

Geer is pursuing all available avenues to challenge the legality of the assessor’s decision. At the direction of our board of trustees, we are working with Murtha Cullina LLP to contest this action.  But we also need your support!

We feel that a unilateral, and we believe improper, increase of over half a million dollars is an inappropriate way to treat a charitable organization that is so vital to our community. 

If you agree that Geer’s mission is critical to our community, please speak up with us, now!  Please log onto our website at  www.geercares.org/we-need-your-support/ to send a message and add your voice to our growing list of supporters.

It is our hope that cooler heads will prevail when this reaches the Assessment Board of Appeals. If this is not the case, we may ask for your help in supporting legal and/or legislative action in order to support Geer’s tax-exempt status and its charitable mission.

 

Kevin O’Connell is the chief executive officer of the Geer Village Senior Living Community in North Canaan.