Argued: January 18, 2018
Atwood, LLP, of Portsmouth (Jonathan A. Block and Michele E.
Kenney on the brief, and Mr. Block orally), for the
Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon, of Manchester (Matthew R.
Serge and Demetrio F. Aspiras on the brief, and Mr. Serge
orally), for the defendant.
plaintiff, The Marist Brothers of New Hampshire (MBNH),
appeals the following orders of the Superior Court
(Ignatius, J.): (1) a decision, following a two-day
bench trial, upholding the denial by the defendant, Town of
Effingham (Town), of MBNH's request for a charitable tax
exemption, for tax year 2015, for real property, see
RSA 72:23, V (2012) (charitable tax exemption), :34-a (Supp.
2017) (appeal from refusal to grant exemption, deferral, or
tax credit); and (2) an order granting the Town's motion
in limine to exclude evidence of the tax treatment
of New Hampshire youth camps other than the camp run by MBNH.
trial court found the following facts, as recited in its
written order. MBNH is a New Hampshire non-profit corporation
affiliated with The Marist Brothers of the Schools, "an
international Catholic teaching Order." As such, MBNH is
also affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The Marist
Brothers of the Schools conducts its operations in the United
States through its U.S. Province (U.S. Province). MBNH is tax
exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code.
See 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) (2012).
was established by U.S. Province "in connection with the
acquisition, development and operation of Camp Marist,"
a religious, residential youth summer camp MBNH founded on
159 acres it acquired in the Town in 1949 (the Property). The
Property sits on the shores of Ossipee Lake and
"includes camper cabins, offices, a chapel, religious
'mound,' dining hall, and health facility, as well as
a number of recreational facilities, including but not
limited to, an activity pavilion, archery and rifle ranges,
an arts and crafts building, horse stables and athletic
fields." Also on the property is a "Log Cabin"
or "Retreat Center" that can accommodate more than
twenty people and is used "as lodging for Camp staff
during the summer camp season and rent[ed] to third parties
during the off season." (Quotation omitted.)
Articles of Agreement, as amended in 1990, state:
The object for which this Corporation is established is to
offer recreational and educational services to persons of
whatever race, nationality, ethnic background, state or
nation of residence. The corporation recognizes and affirms
its traditional affiliation and faith in the Roman Catholic
Church. In furtherance of the object, this corporation shall
provide opportunities to meet primarily the spiritual,
cultural and physical needs of youth.
addition, its by-laws state:
The object for which this Corporation is established is to
offer religious and educational and charitable services to
persons of whatever race, nationality, ethnic background,
state or nation of residence. The Corporation recognizes and
affirms its traditional affiliation with a faith in the Roman
Catholic Church. In furtherance of the object, this
corporation shall provide opportunities to meet primarily the
spiritual, cultural, and physical needs of youth.
Marist is staffed both by Marist Brothers, who receive room
and board but no other compensation, and by "paid staff
from the United States and around the world." Relatives
of staff and of Marist Brothers are allowed to attend Camp
Marist "for free without regard to financial need"
and "[a]s many as fifty to sixty relatives attend the
Camp for free each year."
Marist is co-educational and attracts children from across
the United States and the world. In 2015, 490 children
attended Camp Marist, thirteen of whom hailed from New
Hampshire. Camp Marist operates for seven weeks in the
summer, broken down into two two-week sessions and a final
three-week session. Campers may attend one or more sessions
at a cost ranging, at 2016 rates, from $1, 900 for the first
two-week session to $5, 900 for the full seven weeks. Campers
must also pay a non-refundable $175 registration fee, which
is not credited against tuition, as well as additional fees
to participate in: (1) "many of the activities offered,
such as archery, riflery, fishing, and horseback
riding"; (2) "all of the academic programs offered
. . . [such as] digital photo and media, remedial math, and
special tutoring"; and (3) various day trips, such as
deep sea fishing, white water rafting, and indoor rock
climbing. These additional fees range from $50 to $100 per
session in the first two categories and up to $300 per
activity in the third.
respect to scholarships, the trial court found, in part:
In 2015, the Camp granted 47 full or partial scholarships to
campers, totaling $108, 739.00. Thus, out of the 490 campers
who attended the Camp in 2015, fewer than 10% received
scholarships. The vast majority of campers, therefore, pay to
attend. Moreover, the Camp is not obligated under its by-laws
to provide scholarships, and does not advertise the
availability of scholarships in its brochure, although
scholarship information is available on its website.
omitted.) In addition, scholarships are available only for
the first camp session.
Camp Marist is not in session, MBNH rents the Property. No
restrictions are placed on who is eligible to rent, or how
renters use, the Property. Rental proceeds are allocated to
either the "regular Camp fund, the running of the Camp,
or . . . to some of [MBNH's] scholarships."
(Quotation and brackets omitted.)
revenues in 2015 totaled $1, 363, 200, of which $1, 239, 565
was earned from tuition and fees, and $92, 854 from rental of
the Property. Total expenses that year were $1, 255, 313,
resulting in net income of $107, 907. According to its
bylaws, MBNH is required to pay U.S. Province a yearly
assessment "to provide support to the religious works
and health and well-being of the Marist Brothers."
(Quotation omitted.) The assessment was $100, 000 in 2013 and
has increased by $3, 000 each year thereafter. Thus, in 2015,
MBNH paid U.S. Province $106, 000.
appeals the trial court's affirmance of the Town's
denial of a charitable tax exemption. Our standard of review
is as follows.
[W]e uphold the trial court's factual findings and
rulings unless they lack evidentiary support or are legally
erroneous. We do not decide whether we would have ruled
differently than the trial court, but rather, whether a
reasonable person could have reached the same decision as the
trial court based upon the same evidence. Thus, we defer to
the trial court's judgment on such issues as resolving
conflicts in the testimony, measuring the credibility of
witnesses, and determining the weight to be given evidence.
Nevertheless, we review the trial court's application of
the law to the facts de novo.
Jesurum v. WBTSCC Ltd. P'ship, 169 N.H. 469, 476
(2016) (quotation and citations omitted). Resolution of this
appeal requires us to interpret and apply RSA 72:23, V and
RSA 72:23-l (2012), which are questions of law that
we review de novo. See ElderTrust of Fla. v.
Town of Epsom, 154 N.H. 693, 696 (2007).
In matters of statutory interpretation, we are the final
arbiter of legislative intent as expressed in the words of
the statute considered as a whole. Accordingly, we will
overturn the trial court's decision if we find that the
court misapprehended or misapplied the law. We note that the
legislative purpose to encourage charitable institutions is
not to be thwarted by a strained, over-technical and
Town of Peterborough v. MacDowell Colony, 157 N.H.
1, 5 (2008) (quotations, citations, and brackets omitted).
first recite the applicable statutory language. RSA 72:23, V
exempts from taxation:
[t]he buildings, lands and personal property of charitable
organizations and societies organized, incorporated, or
legally doing business in this state, owned, used and
occupied by them directly for the purposes for which they are
established, provided that none of the income or profits
thereof is used for any other purpose than the purpose for
which they are established.
turn, "[t]he term 'charitable' as used to
describe a corporation, society or other organization within
the scope of . . . RSA 72:23," is defined in RSA
72:23-l to mean, in relevant part:
a corporation, society or organization established and
administered for the purpose of performing, and obligated, by
its charter or otherwise, to perform some service of public
good or welfare advancing the spiritual, physical,
intellectual, social or economic well-being of the general
public or a substantial and indefinite segment of the general
public that includes residents of the state of New Hampshire,
with no pecuniary profit or benefit to its officers or
members, or any ...