HYDERABAD: Catholic schools in the city have been receiving some unwelcome visitors over the last few weeks. Civic officials have come knocking on the doors of these schools, some of them over a 100 years old, to collect property tax from them. The move has come as a rude shock to schools that have been enjoying exemption from the tax for the last many years. They say they cannot be treated on a par with the new schools that have come up in the city and charge exorbitant fees.
For the last many years, schools, run by descendants of catholic missionaries in the city that work out of sprawling premises in prime areas, have been exempt from paying property tax as per the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Act 1955. By this, educational institution buildings, donated by charitable institutions or philanthropists, which are not running purely on commercial lines are exempt from property tax. While an amendment to this Act withdrawing the exemption was made, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy had in 2006 ensured catholic schools were not taxed. He had issued a government memo stating that no educational institution belonging to a religious or charitable institution should be charged property tax. However, now civic officials say the memo is no longer applicable and that it was applicable for the year it was issued. B Ramesh Babu, additional commissioner (finance), GHMC, says the government has changed its policy decision. He, however, adds some concession will be given by the government but that has not yet been decided yet.
Nevertheless, managements of catholic schools state that their fees ranges between Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 per month unlike other private schools that have turned education into a commercial activity. And their main concern is the size of these properties and the civic body calculating their property tax as per the prevailing market rate of Rs 2 per square meter. “These schools are very old. St Paul’s school at Hyderguda is 54 years old and St Ann’s is 130 years old. Other schools like St Patrick is also 100 years old and All Saints High School at Gunfoundry is 153 years old,’’ said Bro Shaw Reddy, general secretary, association of catholic educational institutions of Andhra Pradesh. These schools are spread over four to five acres of land and their property taxes add up to thousands of rupees.