The Herald reports:
A review of non-rateable properties by council staff identified 402 churches requiring changes to their rating. This resulted in rates bills, some of them large, going out earlier this month.
The review found a lot of church property was not being used for religious purposes, which is not subject to rates, but instead was being used for business purposes, which is.
After complaints to councillors, it was discovered the finance and performance committee had been briefed on progress of the review, but no political decisions had been taken to approve a new rating policy for churches.
Pastor Rob Markley, of the Birkenhead Baptist Church, was surprised to receive a rates bill for $1080 after the church had previously only received a waste management charge of about $150.
There’s two issues here. The first is communication. Auckland Council should have individually contacted the churches and said we believe this is the correct level of rates, and giving them a chance to respond.
But on the substance churches should pay rates on facilities if they are using them commercially.
I’d go further and say there should be no exemption for facilities used for religious purposes.
I would support there being a lower level of rating for all charities, and churches would qualify as a charity. But why should a church not pay rates, but Red Cross does?