Church’s request for tax break draws support

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders heard support Tuesday for a Catholic church parish’s request for a break on its local taxes.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington requested an exemption from the local real estate tax on the St. John Bosco campus at 207 N. Main St., Woodstock. The Catholic Diocese is an organization exempt from federal taxation. The county’s latest real estate reassessment put the value of the property at $184,100. The county charged $1,105 in real estate tax on the property this year.

Supervisors held a public hearing on the request Tuesday. Chairman Conrad Helsley said after the hearing that the board plans to consider the request at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Maurertown resident Carlene Webster spoke at the hearing on behalf St. John Bosco, noting the organization’s volunteer efforts and assistance to the less fortunate in the community. The organization’s emergency hotline spent almost $87,000 on its clients last year, Webster said. The store the organization operates collected nearly $29,000 in fiscal 2016, she added. The church received more than $31,000 in donations.

The organization made renovations to the building using funds donated by some local contributors, Webster said.

Fort Valley resident Thomas Drinkwater spoke in support of the parish’s request, noting the organization’s outreach efforts in his community.

“It’s just another source where people can go for assistance and if the outreach center wasn’t there, our citizens of Shenandoah County … would just otherwise go without,” Drinkwater said.

Gina Stetter, of Woodstock, also spoke on behalf of the Catholic outreach center and explained the way the organization and the community come together to help people in need. The outreach center gave more than $250,000 to the poor in the county in fiscal year 2014-2017, Stetter said.

St. John Bosco helps other organizations that assist the homeless population in the area including the Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter, Danny Sheets told the board. Without the parish, more people would have their utilities shut off or experience homelessness, Sheets said.

Church deacon Steve Clifford said the parish can use the money it would save through a tax exemption to further help the community.