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Board ponders whether to alter parcel’s tax status

Updated: March 3, 2014 5:31PM



VALPARAISO — One thing was clear during a Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals hearing last week on whether Preach It Ministries Inc. can retain a property tax exemption on its 36-acre property in Porter Township.

“It’s not a church. It is a not-for-profit ministry,” said James Smith, president and pastor of the company, which offers sermons and other online resources for pastors around the globe, as well as undertaking missionary work in India and other poverty-stricken nations.

The property, at 234 W. County Road 166S, contains two pole barns, a pond and an 8,746-square-foot house; about 2,500 square feet of the home is used for Preach It’s offices and a video room, said Adam Smith, one of the attorneys representing the ministry.

The rest of the structure, according to testimony during Thursday’s hearing, is a residence for Smith and his family, though he said some of it, such as the kitchen and living room, are used for pastoral purposes as well.

The property is worth an estimated $1.1 million.

A religious exemption was granted to part of the property in 2009. But extending that exemption to the entire parcel prompted the appeals board’s inquiry into whether Preach It should retain its exemption from property taxes from the county.

“We’re not just looking at whether Preach It is a church, because Indiana state code does not provide us with a definition of what a church is,” appeals board president Joe Wszolek said. “What we’re dealing with is, is the property used predominantly for religious purposes.”

Smith argued that was indeed the case, as the property often plays host to church services and other faith-based activities, in addition to the online ministry. He provided a list of those activities to the board.

The board may have a decision at its next meeting on Feb. 25, Wszolek said.



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