Channel 9 has learned more about property tax issues plaguing one of our area’s oldest colleges.
It was back in March that we last heard from Dr. Tracey Flemmings, the interim president of embattled Barber-Scotia College in Concord, and she seemed confident in the future of the campus.
“The college presently has four students online who are being taught by pro bono professors,” she had said.
Since then, the school has appealed a decision by the Cabarrus County tax assessor to deny its tax exempt status. County leaders notified Barber-Scotia last December that most of its properties were not being used for educational purposes.
David Thrift is the Cabarrus County tax administrator.
“We’ve spent a lot of time communicating and trying to communicate with Barber-Scotia, asking for information,” he said.
Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe obtained the school’s appeal applications. School officials say the COVID-19 pandemic had “a major impact to the campus that caused the college to have online classes with the goal of returning students to the campus fall of 2022.″ They also say “the impact of COVID has also created delays in finding labor, material, and supplies.”
“The board will decide whether or not the applications -- the ones that they’ve appealed, that I denied -- whether that denial will stand or not. Historically, we’ve seen it go both ways,” Thrift said.
Channel 9 obtained copies of each application Dr. Flemmings filed claiming dilapidated buildings, paved lots and greenspaces were still being used for events like alumni and student recruiting, a 155th event and homecoming tailgating activities, and even solar energy panel demonstrations. For example, Flemmings said Mary McLeod Bethune Hall -- currently a grassy lot -- was demolished by the City of Concord, but the greenspace that remains was utilized in the summer of 2022 by a youth band.
Faith Hall is one of the more iconic buildings on campus that has also fallen into disrepair. Dr. Flemmings wrote that building has been used for meetings, luncheons, and volunteer events.
Since October, when Barber-Scotia’s tax issues became public, Lowe has requested multiple interviews with the school’s interim president. Sometimes he did not hear back, and other times he received a response via email.
When it came to the appeal, Dr. Flemmings again declined to speak with Lowe on camera, saying in an email, “At this time an interview would be premature to have a discussion on this topic at this time. Please respect our time in preparation for the review.”
“The question at hand today is, as the property was Jan. 1 of tax year 2023 -- and what we’ve looked at is what the property was being used for at that point in time,” Thrift said.
If they’re not able to prove the pieces of land the school was denied property tax exemption for were being used for educational purposes, Barber-Scotia could be on the hook for a tax bill not seen in the school’s 156-year history.
A hearing is scheduled for June 15 before the five-member Cabarrus County Board of Equalization and Review. If Barber-Scotia loses any or all of its appeal before that board, they can then appeal to the state’s property tax commission.
Meanwhile, new property tax bills go out in September and are due in January.
(WATCH PREVIOUS: Barber-Scotia College leaders discuss latest issues, redevelopment plan)