A northwest Davenport church embroiled in a property tax dispute will receive a partial tax abatement from the Scott County Board of Supervisors.
Mt. Sinai Christian Fellowship Church faces nearly $100,000 in delinquent taxes after its 2015 purchase of its 4706 Northwest Boulevard church led to a mix-up in its tax-exempt status. The church, which was unaware that it needed to re-file for tax-exempt status on its new location, ended up being charged property taxes for three years before discovering the situation.
The Scott County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 at its meeting Thursday night to approve a partial tax abatement for the church.
Mt. Sinai has repeatedly requested a tax abatement for the entire tax bill. But county officials have said state law prohibits them from abating taxes retroactively and for years in which a property owner does not timely file for a property tax exemption.
However, on Tuesday the board learned there was a legal means of abating a portion of the debt — the second installment of the church's 2018 taxes.
According to the Scott County Treasurer's Office, the church's second installment is for $17,119 due on March 31, 2020.
At the Tuesday supervisors' meeting, Assistant Scott County Attorney Rob Cusack said that by reconciling the different tax years of the county and the City of Davenport (the church's taxes are assessed by the Davenport assessor), he determined the church had filed for its tax exemption in fiscal 2018.
Cusack added that this would not be an abatement per se, but "it is a recognition that they did file timely for 2019."
Asked if there was any more the county could do, Cusack said neither the first installment of 2018 taxes or the 2016 and 2017 property taxes can be abated because there was not a tax exemption filing in those years.
"There is nothing more this board can do under the mantle of abatement, but there is more we can do," said Supervisor Ken Croken, who has been part of an ad hoc group working with Mt. Sinai. "The second half (of the tax installment) is only a small part of the total problem."
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Mt. Sinai's Pastor Frank Livingston, who was in attendance, thanked the board "for giving us a hand" but indicated that the church will continue to work to find a solution.
Church leaders have contended they were never notified of the need to re-file for an exemption, in part because a paperwork problem listed their legal address as their former address. The first indication the church was being charged property taxes came in a delinquent tax notice.
After Thursday's meeting, County Board Chairman Tony Knobbe said that with the partial abatement "the county has done what it legally can."
"From the beginning, we've wanted to help them," he said. "We can't go back further than one year."
On Tuesday, he added "I won't say the county made mistakes, because we didn’t. It wasn’t an error on our part."
The church still owes the past taxes, which have been sold at tax auction, as well as $17,376 from its the first installment of 2018 taxes (including $257 in interest), which were due last month.
In other business, the board:
- Voted 5-0 to expand the criteria of its Auto Theft Accountability Program to include other property offenses committed by juveniles.
Launched in April, the program has not received the number of referrals anticipated and has staffing and budget capacity to handle more juvenile crime cases. The program, which puts car theft offenders face-to-face with their victims, now will be expanded to include juveniles charged with non-violent offenses such as criminal mischief, second-degree theft and burglary.