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Day cares 1 Camden City 0

One Camden day care fought to get back its tax-exempt status and won. For now, at least.

One Camden day care fought all the way to the state level to get back its tax exempt status and won. For now, at least.

In March, I wrote about day cares in Camden being up in arms over losing their tax-exempt status. For as long as they have existed (some as long as 40 years), they have never had to pay property taxes. Most are nonprofit and consider themselves to be a school. One day care even showed me lesson plans for infants to prove her point.

But the county, which discovered what it calls a mistake, says day cares should not be exempt from paying taxes, unless they operate within a church. More than half of all properties in Camden are tax-exempt.

El Centro Comunal Borincano day-care executive director Sonia Plaza was the first one to get a letter almost two years ago for the 2010 tax bill. She thought it was a mistake and didnt think much of it. Then between December and January, she and other day care providers received the 2011 tax bills.

That's when Plaza started the fight. She got nowhere with the city. She lost with the county. She appealed to the New Jersey Tax Court.

By that time, a tax lien had been put on her property on Martin Luther King Blvd in downtown Camden for failure to pay the 2010 taxes. In June that lien was sold.

Earlier this month, Plaza "won" her 2010 case (each year needs to be appealed separately) when the city dropped their case a few days before the trial was to start.

The city will now have to pay the third-party lien holder - Crestar Capital in Cherry Hill (CCTS) - more than $65,000 to get everything back to normal. The county said it was not involved with the 2010 case, only the 2011 one. And the city has yet to answer why this happened.

City council will have to approve the reimbursement at the January council meeting, said city spokesman Robert Corrales.

Plaza is still waiting for a tax court date to argue her 2011 tax status. Also in line are: Respond Inc., Broadway Family, Mi Casita Day Care, and BPUM Day Care. All filed their tax state appeal in September.

"My concern is I have to refinance my loans," Plaza said, adding that she can't do any refinancing with liens continuing to show on her tax records.

But judging by the timeline for the 2010 appeal, the day cares might not have an answer on their 2011 taxes until the summer. And by then the 2012 taxes will already be piling.