ROSEVILLE (AP) -- A long-running struggle between church and state ended with the Roseville City Council excusing a small local congregation from a $158,000 assessment for a rebuilt road.
The Roseville City Council voted 3-2 Monday night to change its city assessment policy and to excuse Advent Lutheran Church from being the only property owner on Josephine Road to have to pay an assessment.
More than 60 people attended the meeting, most of them church members and supporters who wore red bandanas around their necks to show their solidarity.
The Rev. Tom Basich, who has led the church he founded for 49 years, welcomed the relief but said the matter must still be taken to the Legislature to clarify whether a special assessment is a tax.
"The Constitution of Minnesota says all churches are tax exempt; a special assessment is a tax," he said.
While at least two council members said that a special assessment is not a tax, they agreed to remove the assessment from the church.
The conflict began 18 months ago when the city of Roseville sent the 300-member church a notice that it would be assessed $158,000 of the $540,000 cost to rebuild Josephine Road.
City policies excuse homeowners from assessments on roads, like Josephine, that are eligible for state aid. That left only one of the 34 property owners to be assessed for the half-mile road: Advent Lutheran.
"So we said we're not going to pay it," Basich said.
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