Playhouse wins abatement in taxing drama

Assessors concede that they’ve learned from situation.

The Tisbury board of assessors has issued an abatement for the MV Playhouse.

The curtain has closed on a major Island drama: The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse has had its property tax bill abated.

It was a unanimous vote of the board Thursday, Angela Cywinski, chairman of the board of assessors, told The Times.

“Basically, the information they provided at the February meeting gave us everything we needed,” she said. “When they did their presentation and gave us the information, we were able to make that decision.”

The decision to revoke the tax-exempt status of Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse set off a firestorm of protest from theater officials and their supporters, in part because they felt like their status of being a community resource was well known.

Assessors said not enough information was provided, and Playhouse officials say they provided what they were asked to provide. Playhouse officials were taken off-guard when they were informed by letter they’d be getting a tax bill.

“Everything can always be handled differently,” Cywinski said. “We can learn from this and grow from it.”

The Playhouse ended up paying a $3,770 quarterly tax bill, which will be refunded.

Gerald Yukevich, who serves as the treasurer for the Playhouse board, was pleased that what he called the “interrogation” was over, and thanked the community for rallying in support. The Playhouse has a $650,000 annual budget that relies heavily on donations, and he was worried about having to ask donors for money to fund an annual tax bill.

“I’m delighted that the board of assessors has reviewed our status and adjusted our place in their vision as a bona fide charitable institution,” he said. “We serve the community and have for many years, and I hope this moment of examination serves to allow everyone who knows the Playhouse to realize what we do.”

The Playhouse decision came during a review of all of the town’s tax-exempt properties. Several other agencies received tax bills because they failed to answer the request for documentation.

Yukevich said he’s hopeful assessors will make it right with other organizations, as well.

“It’s a victory,” he said. “I hope they’ll review the others as well and rethink how they do things.”