The German Village Society Monday presented witnesses and evidence to the Board of Tax Appeals in hopes of earning tax-exempt status for the society Meeting Haus.

The German Village Society Monday presented witnesses and evidence to the Board of Tax Appeals in hopes of earning tax-exempt status for the society Meeting Haus.

Though most of the hearing was held this week, the society will again go before an attorney examiner to complete the process at 9 a.m. May 9 at the Rhodes Tower, 30 E. Broad St. At that time, representatives of the society and state are expected to discuss finances related to a gift shop in the meeting haus and a contract between the nonprofit and a church that rents space there.

"I need the ability to find out about prices and the money that is made," said Alan Schwepe, representing the Ohio Tax Commissioner. "That is rebuttal evidence, in my opinion."

At Monday's nearly three-hour meeting, most of the discussion focused on how the facility is used and what other organizations also use the building.

Katharine Moore, executive director of the society, presented the 2007 facility report, which marked 25 groups that used the meeting haus in various ways. Three of the groups rented space weekly - a yoga teacher, a church and business networking group.

Moore said any money raised from renting the facility is used to pay cleaning costs.

To reach tax-exempt status, an organizations must prove that it is a charitable organization. Among the groups that Moore said use the facility are the Columbus Police Department, Actors' Theatre, Alcoholics Anonymous, German Village Singers and the German Village Commission.

Schwepe wanted to know how much the society makes through annual events such as Oktoberfest and the Haus und Garten Tour, as well as through membership. Moore responded, and explained the money was used to fund the society's operations.

Others who spoke on behalf of the society included volunteer Bob Jackson; Chris Hune, a member of the society's board of directors; James Panzer, a member of the German Village Commission and of Actors' Theatre; and Rev. James Donnan of Livingston United Methodist Church.

Panzer said Actors' Theatre, an outdoor nonprofit acting group, primarily uses the meeting haus in preparation for its first play of the season, when weather is poor, and as a backup rehearsal space.

"It's not every show, all the time," he said.

He said the group also used the haus when it made an unsuccessful attempt at the Guinness World Record for longest continual reading of Shakespeare. The attempt lasted about four days at no cost to the theatre group.

At stake with the appeal is $17,000 in annual property tax.

When the meeting haus was purchased in 1991, the society unsuccessfully sought tax-exempt status. It tried again in 2003 and was again denied.

Previously, society attorney Robyn Jones said if the initial ruling is overturned, the society will receive a three-year refund, going back from the date of the 2003 application and would not be liable for property taxes from that date. This means the society would receive refunds from 2000 to 2002 and then to the present.

In 2006, the Ohio Tax Commissioner said the society's goals were commendable, but noted that those goals also protect and increase property values in the area.

"I would just like to reiterate that the generation of revenue does not disqualify the property," Jones said in her closing statement.

Attorney examiner Matthew Chafin said once the hearing is complete he will compile the information for the Board of Tax Appeals, which would then vote on the issue.

He could not give a specific timeline, but said it may take several months.

dcross@thisweeknews.com