City says ABT owes taxes; ABT says critics play politics
Prevo deciding whether to appeal decision regarding property taxes
ANCHORAGE - City officials have decided that two properties owned by the Anchorage Baptist Temple have not qualified for the religious tax exemption for the past six years.
That’s a new interpretation of the tax code by the municipality.
But critics of the church say its leaders have been avoiding taxes.
The story got special treatment in the Anchorage Daily News Sunday: The Anchorage Baptist Temple, a bastion of conservative politics, will get hit with a $61,000 city tax bill.
That’s because the church owns two pieces of property in which its pastors, including the son of lightning rod Reverend Jerry Prevo, have been earning equity.
"We went out and hired two different attorney firms to review our tax situation,” Prevo said. “They both came back and said we were in compliance. Now we've read through the paper that the city has said that we're not in compliance. And we're eager to review the situation. If we're not in compliance, we'll gladly pay taxes."
The city's chief financial officer, Lucinda Mahoney, says ABT has been cooperative with her investigation.
Nevertheless, she says: "My take is, all lawyers have different opinions. And our belief is that there is a perception of an equity ownership with its pastors that to me does not comply with the 100 percent exclusive religious use."
But Prevo says this is about more than money.
"I think the Daily News has probably damaged the state of Alaska more than any other one organization by attacking people unjustly -- senators and congressmen, oil companies and others."
Blogger Melissa Green of Bent Alaska says she acted on an anonymous tip last year about information from Allen Prevo’s divorce trial.
"So I'm really glad that we did but I'm also glad that Anchorage Daily News in particular followed up on it and investigated it further and sued to have the court files opened up again because it was a legitimate concern for everyone who pays taxes in this town."
ADN Editor Patrick Dougherty sent KTVA CBS 11 a statement in which he accused Allen Prevo of trying to “conceal the ownership of a tax-exempt home.”
Prevo says the real issue is the recent citizens initiative to add gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans-gendered people to the equal rights ordinance. "And the bloggers and all that I read, they've been after me all of this time to try to get special rights for homosexuals, which I believe they have equal rights already and nobody deserves special rights, but equal rights. And we believe that exists here in our city. And I've come under attack many times because of that issue."
Green responded: "This has been an issue before with the ABT that has nothing whatsoever to do with anything other than here's what the law is for everyone. And here is the law that ABT was not following."
Prevo can appeal the tax bill or the revocation of the exemption -- if he thinks the continuing publicity is worth it.