Buddhists get properties off rolls

AMSTERDAM – A court says two properties owned by a local Buddhist group must be removed from the tax rolls.

The group won a court order against the city of Amsterdam assessor, the city school district and Montgomery County.

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph M. Sise of Montgomery County on Jan. 10 ordered the World Peace and Health Organization’s buildings to be removed from the tax rolls. He also ruled back taxes to be canceled and that the buildings be left off all future tax rolls.

The World Peace and Health Organization, through its religious arm, Guang Huan Mi Zong Inc., filed legal papers against the city’s Board of Assessment Review, the city assessor, the Greater Amsterdam School District and Montgomery County seeking to overturn Assessor Calvin Cline’s determination that two of the organization’s properties in the city – at 10 Leonard St. and 17 Liberty St. – are not entitled to exemption on religious grounds.

The two properties were on the tax rolls in 2012.

The lawsuit asked for review of the 2012 roll that assesses the Leonard Street property at $130,000 and the Liberty Street property at $55,000. The assessment would have resulted in a combined tax bill of about $12,000 on the properties.

The WPHO acquired the Liberty Street property in 2009 and the Leonard Street property, a former factory, in October 2010.

“[The WPHO] is a not-for-profit corporation organized under the laws of New York state,” according to the lawsuit. “[The organization] is recognized as a charitable organization … and is exempt from federal taxation.”

The WPHO is a religious organization “formed to advance and study the work, philosophies and thoughts of Buddhism and the practice of the Buddhist religion,” according to the lawsuit.

The Leonard Street property initially was used for the practice of religion and the storage of religious belongings, including Buddhist statues, Buddhist musical instruments and preaching materials, according to the lawsuit. The Liberty Street property was used as a “meditation and confession chapel for Buddhist preachers, as well as storage for renovation materials for its temples and clergy residences.”