According to a story in the Rapid City Journal, the polygamist Mormon sect that owns a 140-acre compound in the southern Black Hills is $178,594 past due in its Custer County property taxes for 2008 and 2009.
The United Order of South Dakota, which is the legal name of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints community 15 miles southwest of Pringle, has paid none of its 2009 property taxes, which were due last year. The United Order of South Dakota is more than two years past due for part of its 2008 taxes that were due in 2009. It paid the 2008 property taxes due on four of its nine parcels of property, according to the Custer County Treasurer’s office.
County Treasurer Dawn McLaughlin said the late tax payments were unusual for the group, which had always paid its previous property tax bills on time and in cash.
The FLDS practices polygamy as a religious belief, and its president and spiritual leader, Warren Jeffs, is in a Texas prison facing charges of bigamy and sexual abuse of a child. He has been imprisoned since 2007, when he was convicted in Utah of being an accomplice to rape. That conviction was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court. Whether or not Jeffs’ legal problems are contributing to financial problems for the Pringle compound isn’t clear. On Monday, FLDS elder William E. Jessop filed papers in Utah to replace Jeffs as FLDS president.
No one knows exactly how many people live at the Pringle-area compound, which is notorious among its neighbors for its secrecy and for having a guard tower on its property along Farmer Road. The best estimates, based on residential wastewater system plans submitted to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is around 100 people. Residents of the compound don’t respond to media requests.
In addition to its arrears, the group will owe another $80,424.80 in 2010 property taxes this year, McLaughlin said. If the tax bill goes unpaid, the county will have the legal right to start proceedings to acquire the property in December of 2012, she said.
The United Order of South Dakota’s property near Pringle includes at least nine buildings, mostly high-quality, large log residences that are assessed at more than $5 million. They are spread over 140 acres in a secluded, fenced, forested area on the rim of Red Canyon. They most recently constructed a 13,000-square foot two-story chapel and education center that will be valued at more than $1.3 million by the county’s director of equalization when completed. Total 2011 property tax valuation for the compound is about $5.6 million.