ST. STANISLAUS KOSTKA CHURCH, WILMINGTON,
MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF WILMINGTON.
Action for declaratory judgment to determine validity of city and school tax assessments made against rectory building owned and used by church. The Superior Court, Herrmann, J., held that rectory building owned and used by church fell within exemption created by general tax exemption statute of state exempting from taxation any property belonging to any church or religious society and not held by way of investment and tax assessments made on rectory building were void and of not effect and no city or school taxes were due on said building.
Decree in accordance with opinion.
Action for declaratory judgment upon complaint, answer and stipulation of facts.
[48 Del. 412] Stewart Lynch and Alfred R. Fraczkowski, Wilmington, for the plaintiff.
William F. Lynch, 2d Asst. City Solicitor, Wilmington, for the defendant.
The plaintiff seeks a determination of the validity of city and school tax assessments made by the defendant against a rectory building owned and used by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff is one of fourteen parish churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. It was duly incorporated under the laws of this State and it owns a parcel of land in Wilmington bounded by East Seventh and Eighth Streets and by [48 Del. 413] North Locust and Buttonwood Streets. On this tract of land, the plaintiff has erected a church, a parochial school, a convent for the nuns who teach at the school and a rectory.
The plaintiff uses the rectory building to house its administrative offices. The rectory is also used for religious instruction and for the administration and performance of certain Sacraments of the Church such as Baptism, Confession and Matrimony. The building contains offices for the Pastor and his Assistants and a meeting room used as a consultation room for the Pastor and as a meeting place for the Trustees of the plaintiff corporation and for parochial societies and organizations. The plaintiff maintains living quarters in the rectory for the Pastor and his Assistants and they live there in obedience to the law and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church. Title to the land and all of the buildings has been vested in the plaintiff corporation since 1921.
All of the plaintiff's property, except the rectory, has been exempted by the defendant from city and school taxes. As to the rectory, however, the defendant has assessed and levied city and school taxes for each year since 1921. Demand for the payment of these taxes has been made each year in the usual way but the plaintiff has declined to make payment on the ground that the rectory building is and has been exempt from assessment under the general tax exemption Statute of the State. During the years and now in this action, the defendant has taken the position that the rectory building is not exempt because it does not fall within the tax exemption provisions of the Charter of the City of Wilmington. An actual controversy thus exists and this appears to be a proper case for a declaratory judgment by this Court. See 10 Del.C. § 6501.
The question for decision is this: Is the plaintiff's rectory building exempt from assessment and taxation for Wilmington city and school taxes under the general Statute and/or the City Charter?
[48 Del. 414] The general tax exemption Statute of the State, 9 Del.C. § 8103, provides as follows:
" Property belonging to this State, or the United States, or any county of this State, or any church or religious society, and not held by way of investment or any college or school and used for educational or school purposes, or any corporation created for charitable purposes and not held by way of investment, except as otherwise provided, shall not be liable to taxation ...