By CAMILLE PHILLIPS • DEC 5, 2014
The tax status of a high-end retirement home in Kirkwood is no longer in limbo. St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman announced Friday that he has reached a settlement with Ashfield Active Living & Wellness Communities, which owns Aberdeen Heights.
The assessor’s office and the retirement home operator have agreed that 78.8 percent of Aberdeen Heights will be taxed—netting about $1 million a year for schools, fire departments and public works.
Zimmerman said $700,000 to $800,000 of that will go to schools.
“That’s a lot of teachers, and if they don’t have that money to pay for the teachers they either have to fire teachers or they have to charge everybody else a little bit more to compensate for it,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t like to see community institutions put in that position, and getting a favorable outcome here with this property paying substantial property taxes, I think it’s the right thing for the community.”
One part of Aberdeen Heights will be considered tax exempt, however: the skilled nursing unit. Zimmerman said he considers that arm charitable because skilled nursing is generally subsidized and rarely turns a profit. But he said the rest of Aberdeen Heights is different.
“That is overwhelmingly private pay. It’s a very upscale facility. This is the sort of thing that people pay a lot of money to have, so we think it’s pretty fair that they’ll pay taxes on the assisted living part of the facility,” Zimmerman said.
The settlement marks an end to a suit filed by Ashfield Active Living & Wellness Communities in May of 2013, claiming that the entirety of Aberdeen Heights should be tax exempt.
Ashfield’s parent company, Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America, says it finds the settlement fair—with one caveat.
“We feel like in our opinion that Aberdeen Heights follows in the same context as the other retirement communities that we operate, which are tax exempt,” Doug Yoder said. He’s the company’s vice president of operations.
“In St. Louis County there’s a different interpretation, so we have to be respectful of that,” Yoder added. “We have to work in cooperation with the county, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
Yoder also said that the company wants to be a “good citizen” and “appreciates being able to work with the county and the other parties.”
The St. Louis County Assessor’s office is also in the process of reviewing all tax-exempt properties in St. Louis County.
According to Zimmerman, his office has looked at more than 600 tax-exempt properties in the past few months and has several under “active review.”
Noting that there are thousands of tax-exempt organizations who own property in St. Louis County, Zimmerman said the review would be an on-going process.
“The vast, vast majority of them are legitimate charities, schools and religious institutions. But we’re going to keep looking under rocks to find other inappropriate requests for exemptions, and where we find them we will vigorously fight against them,” Zimmerman said.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.