May 28, 2018
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Pay property taxes, Rockland tells church

Stephen Betts | BDN
Stephen Betts | BDN
The Aldersgate United Methodist Church has filed a lawsuit claiming Rockland is discriminating against the church in its taxation.
By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — The property taxes the city assessed on a local church were fair, the city’s board of assessment and review voted unanimously Monday night.

“This is what we wanted; don’t get upset,” said Michael Leonard to a group of Aldersgate United Methodist Church members after the 4-0 vote.

Leonard would not elaborate, as the church’s attorney asked the members not to talk about the situation because the church is suing the city over the tax assessment.

Last year the city assessed the church’s 1,600-square-foot parsonage on a 1.6-acre piece of land at $246,700 and charged it $4,633 in taxes. The church recently sold that parsonage for $145,000.

“The property was substantially overvalued,” argued Mike Lane, the treasurer of the church.

Lane said the fact that the property sold for about $100,000 less than the city said it was worth was enough of a reason to believe the church was overtaxed. Had the church’s property been assessed at $145,000 instead of $246,700, it would have been charged about $2,723 in taxes instead of $4,633.

The city’s attorney, Kevin Beal, rebutted that by saying that the city has certain ways of assessing to make sure similar properties are valued similarly — which is different than market value. Beal also called the church’s sale of the property a distress sale, and thus the sale price was not necessarily its true value.

Lane said this was untrue and the church is in good financial condition. The church only sold the property because no one was using it, nor had anyone used it since 2010, Lane said.

The city had already denied the church a tax abatement. Monday night’s meeting was an appeal of that decision, which was ultimately denied. Now the church can go to the superior court if it wants to further appeal the taxes, said Leslie Mulhearn, the Rockland Board of Assessment Review’s chair.

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