Church for sale carries $27K tax

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A former Altoona church that’s been up for sale for 2 1/2 years now carries a price tag of $59,900. But the property has yet to entice a buyer, possibly because the owner would face a $27,000 annual real estate tax bill.

Representatives of the Jaggard First United Methodist Church, which owns the former church at 12th Avenue and 13th Street, were among nine property owners who appeared Friday before Blair County commissioners to appeal property assessments. The assessments, assigned by the county, are used by taxing bodies to calculate real estate taxes.

Commissioners, who hear assessment appeals annually, are scheduled for additional hearings on Tuesday afternoon, then daily through Oct. 28. Decisions on assessments, effective in 2014, will be rendered before the end of the year.

Real estate agent Richard Johnston, who accompanied the Jaggard First United Methodist Church representatives to Friday’s hearing, said efforts to sell the former church and its parking areas have been ongoing. He said the property has had 22 showings.

While the church isn’t paying real estates taxes on the structure, potential buyers reportedly lose interest when they learn the property’s real estate taxes will add up to $27,000 based on current assessments.

“They walk,” church representative Don Weyer said.

County records show assessed values totaling $269,570 for the former church property and its parking areas, based on 1958 property values, the last year when Blair County conducted a countywide assessment. That calculates to a current market value of $1.68 million, according to Chief Assessor Mike Russell.

Johnston told county leaders that Exit Realty is listing the property with a price of $59,900.

“Churches in Altoona typically don’t sell for a lot of money,” Johnston said.

Cindy Porterfield of Evaluator Services and Technology, the company that provides management services to the county’s tax assessment office, said that the church’s request will be reviewed and studied.

Every time a property goes from exempt status to taxable status, these kind of situations will surface, Porterfield said.

Commissioner Diane Meling said the county had a similar situation when trying to assign an appropriate value to the former Keith Junior High School that became a taxable property when it was converted into an apartment complex.

Friday’s appeals also included a request for a lower assessment on the former Allegheny 1 Elementary School near Cross Keys. While the Hollidaysburg Area School District sold the school to Allegheny No. 1 Limited Liability Corp. for $610,000, partner Drew Swope provided the county with an appraisal showing the value at $525,000. The partnership plans to convert the school into assisted living apartments.