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'It is unjust' | Church fights property appraiser over tax exempted status

"I don't see any legitimacy for their efforts to tax us."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For nearly four decades, Abundant Love Ministries operated at 2525 Dunn Avenue until 2019.

In 2019, the property was sold and now developers are building a new housing subdivision in the area.

"We could not sustain," said pastor Mike Thorpe. "We sold it, but we did not sell the parsonage."

The parsonage, the home where the pastor lives, belongs to the church and is about two miles from the Dunn Avenue address.

It is owned by the church and is used as a business office and virtual studio, but that is not a good enough reason for the Duval County Property Appraiser's Office.

"I don't see any legitimacy for their efforts to tax us," Thorpe said.

Even thought it is still church property and was exempted from paying property taxes, because the church building is sold, the property appraiser is revoking the tax exempted status the church owned parsonage has enjoyed.

"They want to assess us $3,000 a year in taxes when nothing has changed," said Thorpe. "We never quit ministering."

The congregation currently meets in a temporary building, but the church conducts all business from the parsonage on Blackridge Road.

"We feel it is unjust," Thorpe said.

The property appraiser value adjustment board ruled a brick and mortar church building is necessary for all church property to be tax exempted.

However, attorney Zachary Roth disagrees.

"That is not in the statutes there is no case law that says that to my knowledge there is nothing in the world that says that's the case," said Roth.

Roth, with Ansbacher Law, said the church is not the physical building and in this case, the ministry remains unchanged. 

'They still do the exact thing they were doing before they just don't have a deed to a specific piece of property," Roth explained.

The case went before the value adjustment board and they loss but say it is not over.

The summary of the matter is as follows:

"The Church was sold on October 1, 2019, up until that point they had the Parsonage and the Church Exemption. In 2020 we denied the Parsonage
as it is our office policy that you must have the church to qualify for a Parsonage. Otherwise, anyone can have a ministry and have their property exempt.

"We argued the Shipbaugh v. City of Sarasota, Florida Supreme Court Case which outlines are argument that a Parsonage is not a church facility.

"The Magistrate Agreed with us, as per attachments. Please make note, the Assessed Value of this property was lowered from 209,101.00 to 184,387.00."

"The obligations being imposed on them is not supported by the law," Roth explained.

The property appraiser wants to revoke the church tax exemption but at the same time refuse to offer a homestead exemption because Thorpe does not own the parsonage. Instead, the church does.

"This has been a constant stress on us," said Thorpe.

On Your Side reached out to property appraiser Jerry Holland.

Holland suggested they appeal their case to the Value Adjustment Board again this Thursday.

If that fails Thorpe said he is ready to take it to court.