Barber-Scotia College denied some tax exempt status for not meeting requirements

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — Barber-Scotia College was one the Charlotte region’s most beloved historically Black colleges.

However, the college has been under a microscope since it lost its accreditation in 2004.

“We do a compliance review on a regular basis,” said David Thrift, the Cabarrus County tax administrator. “A compliance in 2020 sort of started this current action that we’re discussing.”

Now, Cabarrus County tax officials informed the school’s administrators that tax exemption for 14 of the 24 parcels of land it owns has been denied due to not meeting statutory requirements for exemption.

“Recognizing the property and the lack of use of some of the buildings, based condition,” Thrift said.

The tax-exempt status was not only denied for the piece of land where the main building is located along Cabarrus Avenue. It was also turned down for the land that serves as an official welcome to the Barber-Scotia College campus.

Thrift sent Barber Scotia’s interim president a letter in December.

It read, in part, that any educational institution receiving tax-exempt status for its properties must be “wholly and exclusively used for educational purposes by the owner.”

“Based on a street review of the buildings and the condition of the buildings, we determined which, in my opinion, were wholly and exclusively used, and that was the basis for either the approval or denial,” Thrift said.

The exemption was approved for only two parcels and part of a third, Thrift said.

“The administration building, the library, which was open and being used, and the chapel. So those three buildings. I felt was currently in use, and the land associated with them,” Thrift said.

The lack of complete tax-exempt status means that Barber-Scotia administrators could be on the hook for a $127,000 property tax bill, which is based on last year’s tax rates.

“Once the tax rates are set, we will create a tax bill, send them a tax bill, and then would be required as property owners, to pay that,” Thrift said. “If not, then it would be a property with a delinquent tax bill.”

Since late last year, Channel 9 has made multiple attempts to interview Barber Scotia’s interim president. They have declined.

In early February, Channel 9 received a written statement, saying, in part:

“Barber-Scotia College Administration is continuously committed to working with the city and county officials to help move the college forward for the purpose of educating all individuals. this is one of many small steps in progressing the college forward, back towards accreditation through, ‘Knowledge, Truth, and Service’ to the communities we serve.”

Barber-Scotia administrators said nine students are enrolled as online students this semester.

The school trying to continue educating students while also fighting to hold onto the campus.

In March, Barber-Scotia appealed 12 of the 14 the tax-exempt denials.

The appeal will go to the Board of Equalization and Review for a hearing to determine if the findings from the county’s tax administrator will stand.

Cabarrus County officials shared the following statement about the appeal.

“Barber-Scotia has requested an appeal of the tax emption denial to the Board of Equalization and Review for the parcel list below. Next step: We will send an ‘Application for Hearing’ which is a form that must be filled out and submitted back to us within a 30-day window.  That application will request a hearing and will be another opportunity to provide supporting documentation for the appeal.  Once we receive that back, we will work to schedule a hearing before the Board.”

VIDEO: Tax exemption could be pulled from Barber-Scotia College, Channel 9 learns

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

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