Categories: Schenectady County
An Amsterdam nonprofit could be in line for thousands of dollars in refunded property taxes the courts say it should not have paid.
The state Court of Appeals last week denied a motion by the town of Amsterdam, which sought to appeal a ruling that the Baldwin Research Institute is exempt from property taxes.
Operating since at least 1992, the Baldwin Research Institute provides a social-based education program for people with addictions.
The company owns several properties operated as retreat houses on Church Street in the village of Hagaman, five of which became the focus of legal action between the town, which handles assessment duties, and the company.
Following a ruling in state Supreme Court that the properties should be stricken from the town’s assessment rolls, the town appealed. That appeal was rejected by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court.
A motion to appeal to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, was denied March 20.
The rulings support the Baldwin Research Institute’s challenge to property taxes assessed on 3, 5, 9, 15 and 17 Church St. in the village, according to court papers.
Baldwin Research Institute President Michele Dunbar said Monday the company, which hosts more than 300 people for its programs each year, makes a contribution to the community through the economic impact of guests and continuous upgrades to its properties.
“It’s a shame that they don’t see the big picture of how not-for-profits help the community,” Dunbar said.
Amsterdam Town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza on Monday said he had not yet seen the decision and could not comment.
Ryan Schwantes, chief financial officer at the Baldwin Research Institute, said it was his understanding the town has exhausted any appeal options at this point.
Schwantes said officials there are putting together figures on how much property tax the company paid. He did not want to speculate.
The taxing jurisdictions affected include the Greater Amsterdam School District and Montgomery County. The town of Amsterdam does not have a property tax. The town is responsible for assessing the value of all properties in the town for taxing purposes.
During its last appeal, attorneys working for the town of Amsterdam argued the company didn’t use its properties for a tax-exempt purpose and asserted the company’s officers were paid too much, according to court papers.
The town argued against the company’s nonprofit status, noting that Baldwin Research Institute charges a fee for its programs, places restrictions on public access and doesn’t have a license from the state of New York.
The Appellate Division rejected all of those claims.
In a November 2007 decision, the court stated that the Baldwin Research Institute established that “it is operated for a statutorily exempt purpose and that its officers received average compensation compared to the salaries of other officers of not-for-profit organizations.”
It is true that the Baldwin Research Institute is not licensed by the state of New York, but the state only licenses treatment facilities which employ doctors.
The Baldwin Research Institute rejects the idea that people who drink too much or take drugs excessively are sick, and the company doesn’t employ doctors.
The Baldwin Research Institute company has been the focus of controversy in the past because it advertises its work with the statement “Treatment Doesn’t Work,” and it contends that abusing alcohol and drugs is learned behavior that people choose to participate in.