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The Mayor and Council of Wilmington v. St. Stanislaus Kostka Church

Supreme Court of Delaware

October 25, 1954

The MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF WILMINGTON, a Municipal Corporation of the State of Delaware, Appellant, Defendant-Below,
v.
SAINT STANISLAUS KOSTKA CHURCH, Wilmington, Delaware, a religious corporation organized February 3, 1913, pursuant to the provisions of Vol. 19, Laws of Delaware, Chapter 599, (Title 27) Ch. 1, Sec. 113, Delaware Code of 1953, Appellee, Plaintiff-Below.

Church brought action against mayor and council of city for a declaratory judgment that certain tax assessments made on church's rectory building be declared void. The Superior Court of New Castle County, 105 A.2d 596, entered a judgment adverse to the mayor and council, and they appealed. The Supreme Court, Wolcott, J., held that rectory building was within exemption created by general tax exemption statute and was not subject to tax by city, though not specifically exempted by city charter from taxation.

Judgment affirmed.

Page 582

[49 Del. 6] Writ of error to Superior Court of New Castle County.

William F. Lynch, II, Wilmington, for appellant.

Stewart Lynch and Alfred R. Fraczkowski, Wilmington, for appellee.

SOUTHERLAND, C. J., and WOLCOTT and BRAMHALL, JJ., sitting.

[49 Del. 7] WOLCOTT, Justice.

The question presented by this appeal is whether or not the rectory of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church, a religious corporation (hereinafter referred to as The Church), is subject to taxation by the Mayor and Council of Wilmington, a municipal corporation chartered by special act of the General Assembly (hereinafter referred to as The City).

This litigation commenced with the filing of a complaint for declaratory judgment by The Church asking that certain tax assessments made upon its rectory building be declared void. The parties entered into a stipulation of facts. The court below entered a declaratory judgment to the effect that the tax assessments made by The City on The Church's rectory building are void and of no effect. From this judgment The City has appealed.

The Church owns in Wilmington an entire city block on which are erected a church building, a convent, a parochial school building and a rectory. The City concedes that, except for the rectory, The Church's buildings are free from city taxation.

Page 583

The rectory building is used by The Church for the following purposes: living quarters for the priests serving the parish; the business office of the parish; the filing and storage of official church records; a place in which on occasion the Roman Catholic Sacraments of Baptism, Confession and Marriage are administered; a meeting place for the supervision of the parish's charitable activities; a meeting place for the Pastor to consult with individual parishioners; a place to impart religious instructions; a meeting place for the Trustees of The Church; a place to maintain a religious library; and a meeting place for parochial committees, societies and organizations, which are religious and charitable in purpose and activity.

Commencing in 1921, The City assessed taxes against The Church's rectory. The Church refused to pay and has continued [49 Del. 8] to so refuse. The City, as far as the record discloses, made no effort to collect the taxes assessed against The Church, and finally, to bring the matter to a head, The Church instituted this action for declaratory judgment.

The determination of the basic question presented by this appeal requires us to determine whether The Church's rectory property is exempt from taxation by The City, by reason of the general exemption statute of the State, or by ...


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