Tax Exemption Denied for Local Church's Multi-Million Parsonage

A Bay County judge has dismissed a suit by a Panama City Beach church against the Bay County property appraiser and the county’s tax collector for denying a tax exemption request.

But a final decision on the matter may not come any time soon. Judge Glenn Hess agreed the wording of the complaint was wrong and handed down the dismissal at a hearing Monday morning.

But it comes with conditions; lawyers for the Faith Christian Family Church have been given 30 days to change the language of their complaint, dig up some more facts and re-file.

The church's senior pastor, Markus Bishop, wants his multi-million dollar mansion in the exclusive Preserve subdivision at Panama City Beach listed as a parsonage, exempting it from $47,000 a year in property taxes.

Bay County Property Appraiser Rick Barnett is refusing to agree to the parsonage listing. He argues Bishop's home doesn't fit the criteria, because it's not accessible to other church members.

So the court process continues, and so do the fines every month the taxes are late. According to Barnett, the fine is up to $51,364.51.

Judge Hess says there have been no cases on this issue in Florida since 1957.