Town church receives tax bill in error

  • The Mason Board of Selectmen, with Charles Moser pictured, met with the Trustees of the Mason Congregational Church. STAFF PHOTO BY BRANDON LATHAM

  • The Mason Board of Selectmen met with the Trustees of the Mason Congregational Church. STAFF PHOTO BY BRANDON LATHAM

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/11/2017 6:25:40 PM

Despite receiving a bill, the Mason Congregational Church will be exempt from paying taxes on its property on Valley Road.

All property with a religious use is supposed to be tax exempt, but the assessor billed the church because of its irregular use. The Board of Selectmen chose to exempt it for both its religious purpose and community service uses.

“Personally, I am comfortable with the idea that it is used for church reasons,” Selectman Bernard O’Grady said. “So I think we should grant an abatement.”

The property is Mason lot E-48, 4.715 acres near the center of town. According to its board of trustees, the church has owned this land for about 40 years.

If it did not qualify for religious use exemptions, the trustees were prepared to argue a community impact case because the church hosts community suppers and is an evacuation center for the elementary school, among other things. It has not been taxed before.

“Given the way the numbers work and my statistics read, I think a greater good would be staying with past practice,” Keith Williams said on behalf of the church’s board of trustees at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday.

According to the trustees, assessor Todd Hayward cited cases in Lyndeborough and Nashua in which seasonal chapels or other church sites that do not regularly offer services can be taxed, at least partially. O’Grady said they would not apply, and that the religious use requirement is being maintained.

“The state allows the towns to [tax it],” Trustee Michael Goen said. “They can do it, but they don’t have to.”

State law, as read by O’Grady at the meeting, says: “It is used and occupied directly for religious training or other religious purposes.”

The vote was unanimous among the two selectmen that voted, O’Grady and Chair Louise Lavoie. The third selectman, Charles Moser, recused himself from the discussion and vote because he is a member of the church and its auditor.

The real estate in question was last assessed $76,600. The bill was for $1,931.

In upcoming town business, the Select Board is preparing for its Jan. 24 meeting, which will include a hearing over the bond request to fund a new building for the highway department. It is considering opening the current building to tours so residents can see why a new one is needed.


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