State Legislature moves to lift tax liens on Schenectady nonprofits

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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— A bill that would get rid of tax liens on Schenectady nonprofits is heading to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his approval.

Tax liens sold in Schenectady between 2004 and 2009 included some placed on formerly tax-exempt churches and temples, which were mistakenly told to reapply for tax-exempt status, didn’t comply and then owed taxes they didn’t pay. The city worked with the state Legislature to rectify the liens facing some organizations, but not all of the problems were fixed and at least 10 small churches and temples still had the threat of foreclosure looming.

The Assembly passed a bill Tuesday, following the lead of the state Senate on Monday, that will back-date the tax-exempt status for the organizations that are facing liens, which would make it impossible for liens to exist.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy thanked the proponents of this bill in the state Legislature, assemblymen Phil Steck, D-Colonie, and Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna. He anticipated that American Tax Funding, the private company that bought the liens in question, would have its costs refunded by the city.

While noting that it was unfortunate that it took this long to solve the problem, McCarthy said, “It helps eliminate some of these complicating factors that have been put on some of our not-for-profits.”

According to the bill memorandum, the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady, Hindi Temple and Community Services, Consecration Temple Church of God in Christ and Calvary Baptist Church are just some of the groups that will benefit.

This solution offered a new way of approaching this problem, which state legislators were unable to fix in previous attempts because the Assembly balked at fixing issues dating back more than three years. The approved fix made it through because it amended existing state law instead of carving out new property tax exceptions.

Farley said: “We are hopeful that this legislation will bring this long process to an end and ensure that these churches and organizations can continue to serve the community. We will be working with the city and the affected parties to seek the governor’s approval of this bill.”

The bill still needs to be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but he is expected to sign it into law. Once enacted, it would take effect immediately. A co-sponsor of the legislation in the state Senate was Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg.

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