"""Merton — St. John's United Church of Christ in Merton holds worship services on Sundays and during some months holds Bible study classes on Tuesdays.
Like other churches, St. John's is exempt from paying property taxes.
But every day of the week, including Sundays, a for-profit Jazzercise franchise runs fitness classes at the church. Classes are offered four times a day from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, according to the calendar posted online. Jazzercise holds fewer classes at the church Friday through Sunday.
Rental not uncommon
It's not uncommon for churches to rent out space. But when they rent to businesses that don't qualify for a property-tax exemption, that portion of the property used by the business is supposed to be subject to taxes, according to state laws.
In reality, how churches are actually used gets little attention from regulators, an investigation by the Journal Sentinel has found. Some properties are listed as churches but have little, if any, activity going on. Others, such as St. John's, raise different concerns. The lack of government oversight ultimately costs all the other property owners who do pay taxes. And the tax break gives Jazzercise a competitive advantage over other business owners who pay property taxes.
"That's definitely not fair," said John Gebhard, owner of Lake Country Racquet & Athletic Club in Hartland. "I pay some pretty big property tax checks. That kind of gets under your skin after a while. As a business owner you think 'Why am I paying this and everybody else isn't?' "........
Once First Church of the Blessed Beatnik holds regular jazzercize classes, or bar-be-ques open to the public (charging admission), or tax preparation classes hasn't it become a de facto business, thus losing the tax exempt status (itself dubious, even without the business)?? Contingencies says yes.
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