Camp Oorah fights for tax-exempt status in Schoharie County
JEFFERSON More than $246,000 in county, school and town tax revenue hangs in limbo as the town of Jefferson awaits a court decision in an assessment dispute with a religious organization.
Oorah Inc., which purchased the former Scotch Valley ski resort and Deer Run condominium complex back in 2009, filed papers with the town seeking to be declared wholly exempt from taxes due to its nonprofit status.
The property consists of three parcels totaling more than 414 acres off state Route 10 and Scotch Valley Road.
The organization, which operates summer camps for Jewish children and holds religious retreats on properties in Gilboa and the disputed parcels in Jefferson, filed suit in July asking state Supreme Court to annul and vacate the town’s decision to reject property tax exemptions.
Town Supervisor Daniel Singletary said the town is expecting to spend roughly $10,000 in attorney fees fighting the exemptions.
He said he believes the town has researched the issue and contends Oorah hasn’t done enough to prove it should be relieved of property taxes.
“Any institution that wants to be tax-exempt has to work with the authorities to prove that they are due that exemption,” Singletary said.
“A property tax exemption is a charge to all the other taxpayers.”
In court papers, attorneys working for Oorah Inc. contend the town, its assessors and Board of Assessment Review don’t understand tax law as it relates to nonprofits.
In court papers, Oorah attorney John J. Privitera condemns the town’s actions that followed the exemption request, contending various reasons the town cites for denial don’t outweigh the fact that the properties are all used for “Mission-related religious activity throughout the year.”
“In sum, [Oorah’s] Gilboa and Jefferson campuses are and have been used exclusively for carrying out [Oorah’s] religious, educational and charitable purposes.”
The organization’s property in Gilboa was deemed nontaxable by the town of Gilboa earlier this year in response to applications filed at the same time as those in Jefferson.
In Gilboa, Oorah’s property consists of roughly 117 acres off South Gilboa Road.
The town’s case relies on several assertions, including “discretion” on the part of the town assessor.
But according to Oorah’s response in court papers, there is no discretion when it comes to “mandatory” exemptions applied to property owned by corporations or associations that are organized for “religious, charitable, hospital, educational or moral or mental improvement of men, women or children purposes.”
The exemption Oorah is working to achieve is the same as those given to entities such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, YMCA and YWCA, bible and youth camps and retreats.
Jefferson’s attorney in the case, Michael R. Cuevas, and Privitera could not be reached for comment for this story.
Oorah spokesman Andrew Moesel provided the following statement via e-mail last week: “We look forward to ending this baseless attempt to attack our status as a non-profit, charitable organization, which has led to nothing but public aggravation and the loss of taxpayer dollars.”