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Mistake lands retirement community at top of delinquent taxes list

For nearly 70 years, Aldersgate United Methodist Retirement Community has been exempt from paying property taxes as a nonprofit retirement campus.

So it is understandable that Suzanne Pugh, Aldergate’s president and CEO, was surprised when she learned last Friday that Mecklenburg County had sent the community a tax bill – to the tune of about $368,000.

With that bill, Aldersgate topped the list of delinquent business and individual taxpayers for 2014 published in Sunday’s Observer.

“I was very shocked to say the least, and jumped right on it,” Pugh said. “Nothing had changed with the use of the property.”

Yet to the county’s tax assessor’s office, the property had changed after Aldersgate decided to subdivide its 234 acres in late 2013 and didn’t know it had to apply for tax exemption for each of the new parcels.

Pugh said Aldersgate paid the bill in March, but not in time for the Feb. 28 deadline to avoid the list.

So now Aldersgate is working with the county tax assessor’s office to determine which of the new parcels – if not all – are exempt.

Tax Assessor Ken Joyner said he was notified of the issue on Friday by Tax Collector Neal Dixon.

“Neal had gotten money from them, and he felt we ought to take a look at it,” Joyner said. Without the necessary applications to exempt the new parcels, “the person keying in the new parcels took the exemption off.”

He said the county is awaiting the applications. “We just need updated information to make sure nothing has changed at Aldersgate,” he said. “Ultimately, if what we’ve been told by their attorney is true, they may have to pay on some, but most of the parcels would go back under exempt.”

Joyner said the facility will be refunded for parcels that are ruled exempt.

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