The answer according to PJI’s first question was “yes,” as liability for the Paramedic Tax is triggered by mere ownership of real property, as opposed to a particular use of the property, and is due annually. In answer to the second question was “no,” as the court held that the California Constitution exempts buildings used for religious worship from property taxation in all its forms, not just ad valorem taxes, which are levied on property in proportion to its value as determined by assessment or appraisal.
Based on its answers to those questions, the court held that the Paramedic Tax was unconstitutional as applied to Valley Baptist. The court also ordered the City to refund the $13,644 in taxes that the Church had to pay to the City as a condition of filing the lawsuit, along with interest at a rate of 3 percent per annum.
Valley Baptist’s victory could have implications for both cities and churches statewide(California)—especially if an appellate court affirms the trial court’s ruling. As one of the cases Hacke cited in his trial briefs noted, cities have an obvious incentive to re-label their taxes to get around the California Constitution’s provision exempting church buildings from taxation.
“The Legislature has declared that church buildings are exempt from property taxation, and cities have a duty to honor that,” PJI President Brad Dacus said, and that “The City of San Rafael chose not to, and hopefully this case will send a message to other cities that they cannot willfully ignore churches’ rights under the California Constitution in order to generate revenue.”
Keep Reading the Miller News Service for updates on this developing story.
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