Assemblymember Steck Works to Prevent Foreclosures of Several Schenectady Churches and Temples

Assembly passes measure to ensure tax-exempt status of religious organizations

Assemblymember Phil Steck (D-Colonie) announced the Assembly passed a piece of legislation that would retroactively maintain the approved tax-exempt status of real property where tax liens have been sold, preventing the foreclosure of several churches and temples in the city of Schenectady (A.7499).

Previously, the Legislature passed a measure allowing the city of Schenectady to sell tax liens to private companies between 2004 and 2009 to provide the city with additional revenue. Unintentionally, some of the liens sold between that time period included formerly tax-exempt churches and temples, which only had liens placed on them because their tax-exempt status was mistakenly removed.

“Our local churches and temples are truly irreplaceable and forcing them to shut their doors because of an unfortunate technicality would have a crushing effect on the community,” Assemblymember Steck said. “By retaining their tax-exempt status, we can fix an issue that’s been plaguing our area for too long and avoid the foreclosure of at least 10 of our area’s religious organizations.”

“Without this legislation the futures of many local religious organizations would have been up in the air,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. “We had to make sure they could continue to be a part of our communities, where they provide valuable services for our friends, families and neighbors. More than just religious institutions, these organizations often help those in need by running food pantries and serve as a meeting place for local groups.”

Under this measure, the tax-exempt status of the nonprofit religious organizations would be retained, canceling the sale of the liens on them and preventing their foreclosure. Some of the organizations affected include: First Unitarian Society of Schenectady; Consecration Temple Church of God in Christ; Calvary Baptist Church; Schenectady Hindi Temple and Community Services; and Mount Olivet Missionary Baptist Church.

“The passage of this bill culminates a multi-year effort by the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady to eliminate real estate tax liens on our church,” said John Reschovsky, secretary of the Board of Trustees at the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady. “In collaboration with other religious institutions in Schenectady, we have worked with state legislators, as well as city and county officials, to eliminate the threat of foreclosure of our sanctuaries. We are particularly indebted to Assemblymembers Phil Steck and Angelo Santabarbara. These two freshman assemblymen exhibited extraordinary initiative, creative problem solving and persuasiveness. For that, we are very grateful.”

“The city of Schenectady greatly appreciates Assemblymember Steck’s diligence in getting this bill passed,” city of Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said. “Settling this longstanding issue will allow these organizations to solely focus on the good work they do for our community.”

According to Assemblymember Steck, the city of Schenectady and Schenectady County are in support of this measure. Additionally, the city has offered to pay the private lien buyer for the face value of the liens, but the offer was turned down.