Apr 27, 2010
Life, Liberty & Lynchburg: University taxes help city meet budget
by Amanda Sullivan
Despite common misconceptions, Liberty University does, in fact, pay taxes — at least according to the City of Lynchburg. Some of the taxes that Liberty pays, which contribute to Lynchburg’s bottom line, include real estate tax, personal property tax, lodging tax, meals tax and amusement tax. The city’s records show the various levels of tax contributions from Liberty University, Lynchburg College (LC) and Randolph College (RC).
Although Liberty is a private university and tax exempt for the most part, the school is required to pay taxes on all buildings and properties that are not used for academic purposes. The City of Lynchburg has collected a total of $51.4 million in real estate taxes for the 2010 fiscal year. Liberty has paid $78,664 for the 2010 fiscal year, which began July 1, 2009 and ends June 30, 2010, according to Lynchburg Financial Services Director Donna Witt. LC has paid a total of $2,674.35, while RC has paid $6,169.69, Witt said.
The university also pays real estate taxes on certain parts of Campus North, commonly known as the old Ericsson building. The locations include businesses like the Founders Food Court, Tan State, The HigherOne Office and the Arte Dei Capelli Salon.
Liberty also has other entities that are placed in a holding company’s name, for which the university also pays a real estate tax. The related entities include properties such as Candler’s Station and the Plaza. A total of $177,495 for the Plaza and $221,396 for Candler’s Station was paid in the 2010 fiscal year.
Liberty has paid a total of $477,555 in real estate taxes for the 2010 fiscal year.
LC has paid a total of $2,674.35 in real estate tax, while RC has paid $6,169.69 real estate tax, Witt said.
Lynchburg has collected a total $1,777,363 in lodging tax for the 2010 fiscal year, according to Witt. The lodging tax requirements for Liberty amount to a total of $1,978. Witt reported no numbers for LC and RC.
The city’s amusement tax collections amount to a total of $514,524. Liberty’s contributions amusement tax fund equal $27,749, meaning Liberty makes up 5.4 percent of Lynchburg’s total amusement tax revenue. In comparison, LC pays $133.40 in amusement tax. Liberty’s amusement tax number is comprised from the various third-party sales from SnowFlex, the LaHaye Ice Center and the Liberty Theatre. The school also pays some amusement tax for the concerts featured during events like College for a Weekend (CFAW) and Winterfest. However, only tickets purchased outside the CFAW and Winterfest packages are charged an amusement tax, according to Liberty Accountant Cindy Gaebe.
Meals tax is another tax to which Liberty contributes. The school paid a total of $1,705 for the fiscal year. LC has paid $12,776.44, according to Witt. Although, it appears that LC has paid significantly more in meals tax than Liberty, the numbers are not quite accurate, as Liberty outsources most of its food preparations to Sodexo.
“Sodexho has locations in the City of Lynchburg other than (Liberty),” Witt said. “The meals tax paid in relation to (Liberty) is $7,797.41 for the period July 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010.”
Liberty’s meals tax contributions is less than LC because Liberty does not pay meals tax on board meals or items purchased with meal points. Students who use their Flames Cash or “Flash” on the new Flames Pass card off campus next year will not be exempt from the meals tax.
“We don’t have to pay taxes on board meals,” Chief Financial Officer Don Moon said. “For the Flames Pass, they are responsible for paying taxes just like cash or credit.”
The subject of taxes is a tricky subject as they are times difficult to understand.
“We have to follow and adopt state laws,” City Assessor Gregory Daniels said.
The tax rates placed on properties and items are not controlled by a single person or entity. In fact, the rates are determined by a variety of people and processes.
“I like to think of us as a three-headed animal,” City Commissioner Mitchell Nuckles said. “The assessor levies, the collector collects and the city council sets the rate.”
For more information on local taxes, visit Lynchburgva.gov.