Clements v. Ljungdahl
|United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
|167 P.2d 603,161 Kan. 274
|CLEMENTS et al. v. LJUNGDAHL et al.
|06 April 1946
Syllabus by the Court.
1. Tax-exemption provisions of the Constitution and the statutes are to be strictly construed and those seeking such exemption have the burden of showing clearly that the facts entitle them to the exemption
2. In determining the issue of property tax exemption under the provisions of Article 11, section 1 of the Constitution of this state, the question of who holds title to or owns the property is not a controlling one.
3. Property used for 'benevolent and charitable purposes' is not entitled to tax exemption unless the property is used exclusively for such purposes.
4. Record examined in an original proceeding in mandamus brought to secure property tax exemption for certain real estate owned and used by various bodies of the Masonic order, and held: Under the facts set out in the opinion, the property is not used exclusively for benevolent and charitable purposes within the meaning of Article 11, section 1 of the Constitution of this state--following Manhattan Masonic Temple Ass'n v. Rhodes, 132 Kan. 646, 296 P. 734.
B. I Litowich, of Salina (Larue Royce, E. S. Hampton, R. E Haggart, and H. H. Dunham, Jr., all of Salina, on the brief) for plaintiffs.
Stanley Taylor, of El Dorado (Tom Stratton, of Osage City, on the brief), for defendants.
This is an original proceeding in mandamus in which the plaintiffs seek removal from the tax rolls of certain real property in the city of Salina owned and used by a number of Masonic bodies. The ultimate question is whether the property is used exclusively for benevolent or charitable purposes.
The property involved, known as the Masonic Temple, is owned jointly by five different Masonic bodies, the title being held by trustees who are the plaintiffs in the present proceeding. The trustees made application to the Board of County Commissioners for tax exemption of the property on the ground that it was 'used exclusively for educational religious, charitable and benevolent purposes' and was therefore entitled to exemption under the law. The county commissioners declined to exempt the property on the grounds that the statutes, section 79-1701, G.S.1935, provide that no property shall be stricken from the tax rolls until authority to do so is obtained from the State Commission of Revenue and Taxation. Application was then made to the State Commission of Revenue and Taxation; a brief hearing was held before the Commission, and on May 19, 1945, the Commission issued its order denying the application to exempt the property, and in the order it was stated:
'The Commission further finds that the evidence submitted both in writing and orally does not show that the property for which exemption is requested is used exclusively for religious, educational, or charitable purposes. That the representative of the applicants stated that he would stand on the record submitted. That the Commission cannot distinguish this case from that of the Manhattan Masonic Temple [Ass'n] v. Rhodes, 132 Kan. 646, 296 P. 734, wherein the court denied exemption on the ground that 'The property is not so exclusively used for purposes of benevolence and charity as to bring it within constitutional and statutory exemptions from taxation.''
The instant proceeding followed.
In view of the fact that the case is submitted here upon a stipulation of facts, it is unnecessary to set out in full the allegations of the pleadings. Suffice it to say that the plaintiffs set out in detail facts with reference to the location and nature of the property and its ownership; the objects and purposes of the various Masonic orders involved; recite the steps taken before the county commissioners and the State Commission to secure exemption of the property; and assert that 'under the undisputed testimony and evidence presented to said Commission the property herein referred to is owned by the respective Bodies as herein alleged and is used by the owners thereof solely and exclusively for religious, educational, charitable and benevolent purposes and for no other purpose.' They assert that under the facts shown, the Commission had no discretion in the matter and that it was their clear legal duty to direct the removal of the property from the tax rolls. In its answer the Commission expressly denied that the property is used exclusively for educational, scientific, religious, benevolent and charitable purposes within the meaning of the tax-exemption provisions of the law. It is unnecessary at this point to take further notice of the pleadings. We go to the stipulation of facts.
The property is owned jointly be five different Masonic bodies, the Salina Consistory, Isis Temple, A. A. O. N.M. S.; Salina Chapter No. 18, R. A. M. & Askelon Commandery No. 6; Harmony Chapter, O. E. S.; and Salina Lodge No. 60, A. F. & A. M.; the title being held by five trustees, each one of whom was duly elected to represent one of the Masonic bodies above named. The building was erected in 1923 by The Masonic Temple Aid Association, a Kansas corporation; was conveyed to other owners in 1934 and in 1944 was purchased by its present owners who entered into an agreement providing for the use, management and control of the property by the joint owners. Details of that agreement need not be recited.
The pertinent facts as to the building, its occupancy and use may be summarized as follows: The building is six stories high and occupies all the lots in question except such portions as are used as a lawn and as driveways. The building has numerous large corridors on the various floors, some of which are not used. On the first floor is the office of the recorder or secretary of Isis Temple, and a large dining room and kitchen; on the second floor is a room used for paraphernalia and a room used as the office of the secretary of the Salina Consistory. On the third floor is a large auditorium and stage used for lodge meetings of the Salina Consistory and Isis Temple for ritual and initiation purposes. The fourth and fifth floors are not used except for a storage room for paraphernalia. On the sixth floor are separate lodge rooms of the Salina Lodge A. F. & A. M., Harmony Chapter O. E. S., and Salina Chapter R. A. M. and Commandery. The dining room on the first floor is used at various meetings of the Salina Consistory and at stated times luncheons are served there to various members of Isis Temple. The dining room is also used by the other Masonic bodies for their own banquests or dinners. All meals furnished in the dining room are paid for by each organization which is at the time using it, 'and no charge is made for any of said meals except luncheons served to members of Isis Temple.' At the luncheons served by Isis Temple to its members, 'a small charge is made, which charge does not pay the cost of the meals nor the serving of same.'
It is further agreed in the stipulation that
The pertinent provisions of the Constitution, which is article 11, section 1, is as follows:
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