By Leisa Zigman, I-Team Reporter

KIRKWOOD, Mo. (KSDK) - On the heels of an I-Team investigation into whether a luxury retirement complex in Kirkwood should qualify for tax exempt status, the county assessor is weighing in.

In a strongly worded statement, St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman tells NewsChannel 5, "Putting the word Presbyterian in your name does not automatically qualify you for tax exemption. Fairness means treating all business entities the same way. If it walks like a for-profit, talks like a for-profit, and looks like a for-profit, then in all fairness to the rest of the taxpaying citizens within the Kirkwood municipal and school district boundaries, I cannot recommend granting tax-exempt status to Aberdeen Heights."

Last month, the I-Team reported that Kirkwood school officials were fighting the facility's tax exempt status, claiming the district could lose millions of dollars in revenues.

Aberdeen Heights is owned by Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America and consists of 243 congregate living units, 30 assisted living units, 15 memory support (dementia care) and 38 skilled nursing beds. Entrance fees into the community range between $290,950 and $770,099.

Bruce Shogren, President and CEOforPresbyterian Manors of Mid-America, the parent company of Aberdeen Heights, issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:

"Aberdeen Heights is more than just a senior living community - it's a continuing care retirement community that provides health care such as skilled nursing and rehabilitation, memory support and assisted living for residents. Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America was granted a nonprofit tax exempt designation by the Internal Revenue Service. As a nonprofit organization, we are able to provide a quality lifestyle for older adults in St. Louis County. Managed by Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America, a faith-based, mission-driven organization, any excess revenues we receive are retained within the organization for the purpose of improving the facilities and operations for the residents we serve in our senior living communities. There are no shareholders or payment of dividends to stockholders. A tax-exempt status allows us to reinvest in our residents, our communities and the Greater St. Louis community.

"We have been in negotiations with the City of Kirkwood and the Kirkwood School Board, and will continue those talks. In the meantime, there is a hearing scheduled with the Board of Equalization next month, at which time representatives on both sides of this issue can discuss the merits with an impartial party."

Dr. Tom Williams, Superintendent of Kirkwood Schools, issued the following statement: "On behalf of our students and community members, I am pleased to hear that Mr. Zimmerman is taking a hard look at Aberdeen Height's application for tax-exempt status. I believe it is the responsibility of the Kirkwood School District to continue to work with our community to ensure a fair review of the facts in this matter."

The Board of Equalization will ultimately decide the tax exempt status of Aberdeen Heights in a meeting scheduled for April 17. If the board rules against tax exempt status, owners of Aberdeen Heights can appeal to the courts.

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