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Grace Children’s Home properties in Henderson will remain property tax exempt

YORK – With a 4-1 vote, the York County Commissioners determined this past week the properties owned by Grace Children’s Home in Henderson will remain property tax exempt.

An earlier vote was taken by the commissioners in the matter, when there was a vacant seat on the board. At that time, the vote was 2-2, so it being a tie, the matter was stalled. With the recent appointment of Andy Bowman as the new member of the county board, the matter came back to the commissioners for another vote. This time around, the exemption was granted.

Questions were earlier raised about the entity’s tax exemption status after members of the public reported concerns to the county assessor’s office. Kurt Bulgrin, assessor, said because the many houses and lots were no longer being used to house children who are wards of the state, he asked for the status to be looked at once again.

Representatives of Grace Children’s Home acknowledged wards of the state no longer are housed there, due to changes in state legislation. However, they said the properties were being used to run their efforts to encourage and facilitate adoptions while assisting with foster care situations. They also said staff members and families needing assistance while in the adoption/foster process were living in the houses. It was noted one of the properties is used for their equine therapy sessions. They asked for the property tax exemption status to continue.

Bulgrin gathered information from the entity and provided it to the county board.

This week, it was acknowledged this was the third public hearing held in the matter.

Roger Siebert spoke during the public hearing, saying he was in support of the exemption for Grace. “I’ve seen how Grace Children’s Home has changed over the years, due to the state, and they have had to change with the times. They are 100% booked up for horse therapy and some (of the people attending those therapy sessions) stay there. I’m 100% in favor of the exemptions. They are not charging the people. They have had to change with the times. People who have never had adopted children or special needs children just don’t know.”

Willard Peterson from Bradshaw said the conversation made him think “about how in the past, if it had to do anything with religion, the exemption was allowed. And if anything they say about what they do is true, that helps you guys out too.”

Mark Danielson, the director of Grace Children’s Home, again appeared before the board. “We have sought to provide positive outcomes for children,” he said. “We want to stop the cycle of kids ending up in the system. This next year, we will do 600 sessions of horse therapy. I’d encourage you to see what happens. Regardless of what happens here today, we will continue to do what we have been called to do.”

Joining Danielson was Marty Blocker who has worked with the Grace equine therapy program for the last 1 ½ years. He talked about the value of equine therapy for traumatized and challenged kids, testifying to its true value. He encouraged anyone who is interested to visit the venue to see their work.

“Through this therapy, they can find an attachment and a trust,” he said. “We try to also work with these kids spiritually. It’s a needed thing. We are trying to provide a sense of security in their lives. In my heart, I feel the program is so valuable. We do not charge for our services.”

“The last time, the vote regarding tax exemption was 2-2, so we are fully staffed now,” Obermier said, referring to the commissioner seats, “and we will take another vote today.”

Bowman made a motion to approve all the applications for parcel exemptions from Grace Children’s Home. Commissioner Jack Sikes seconded the motion.

“I think we have received good comments and information,” Commissioner Daniel Grotz said. “There were many parcels and I had a list of eight parcels with questions. My questions are about where the employees are living – those parcels – whether those should be exempt. I have no problems with the rest.”

When the vote was taken all the commissioners with the exception of Grotz voted in favor of continuing the exemptions.

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