After over a year without a tenant, the East Hills parsonage has been sold to Residential Resources for our asking price, $250,000.00. When occupied, a paid-off parsonage is a major asset. The use of the building was a form of compensation for staff that was equivalent to several hundred dollars a month, but with no cash outlay for the church. However, since Caleb and Becky Cox moved into their own home a year and a half ago, the parsonage has gone from an asset to a liability. With no pastoral staff member living there, its local property tax exemption had expired. Using it as a youth center or office space does not confer the exemption, so with no plans to use it as a residence, we would be paying taxes on it into the foreseeable future.
A sale of the parsonage would have paid for our recent remodel with a great deal left over, but the feeling of the Administration Board was that the remodel needed to stand on its own, supported by the current membership rather than the effort and giving of the past members who bought, maintained, and expanded the parsonage.
"For me, personally, I had always been opposed to selling the parsonage," Elder Tom Hight said. "We could, in effect, pay someone $600.00 a month, and here's our property appreciating, and we're not out of pocket. But we just came to a place where it made more sense to sell than to keep."
The church leadership put the house on the market in early July, and Residential Resources expressed interest within a few weeks. After the EHA members voted in favor of allowing the property to change hands, Pastor Nick closed the deal on our behalf. We asked for, and got, 10 percent up front. From that down payment, we paid the closing costs and the back property taxes that had already come due.
Founded in 1980, Residential Resources cares for both children and adults with developmental disabilities and other medical needs. They are a well-established non-profit agency and already own three other group homes in the Kelso-Longview area. They are also associated with AmeriCorps and United Way. After some modifications, the parsonage will serve as a home for disabled children. They have committed to paying off the property in two years.
We have not yet decided where and how to deposit the incoming payment. We have the ability to put it to work earning interest, but there are strict limits on what we can do with the principal itself. The Christian and Missionary Alliance allows member churches to spend money from the sale of property only on capital improvements, so we could not use it to pay pastors' salaries, for instance. The elders have proposed the idea of earmarking the money from the sale to help plant a daughter church."We were no longer tax-exempt and had no real hope or expectation of regaining that," Tom said. "That was really the entering wedge. And we had already years back considered that if we grew to a size where we could do this, that we wanted to daughter a church -- it's a long-range goal. The two are separate but parallel."