Sunday, December 26, 2010

DECEMBER 27, 2010


Facing budget gaps and an aversion to (new government) debt . . ., states and local governments are slapping residents with an array of new fees—and some are applying them to nonprofits.

That marks a sharp departure from long-standing tax exemptions mandated by state law or adopted on the theory that churches, schools and charitable organizations work alongside governments to provide services to the community . . . (and are therefore exempt form from such fees.)

The issue is on display in Houston, where some flood-prone roads are in such disrepair that signs warn drivers, "Turn around, don't drown."

Houston's taxpayers in November narrowly voted to adopt a "drainage fee" to raise at least $125 million a year toward the cost of improving roads and storm-water systems.

The city will charge fees to property owners, and it won't grant exceptions to churches, schools and charities.

The city has been tightening its budget. "We're cutting up the city's credit cards," says Mayor Annise Parker. "Everyone who contributes to drainage issues has to share in the cost of correcting those issues."

A number of groups—including schools, businesses, churches and senior citizens—are demanding exemptions. "We'll defeat this," says David Welch, of the Houston Area Pastor's Council, who plans to lobby state legislators in January.

This is really a tax. It is the first time that churches would not be exempt from property taxes. Some opponents have filed suit claiming the ballot wording was misleading.

At a group called the National Council of Nonprofits, Tim Delaney, chief executive, says:

Governments are taking their public burdens and putting them on the backs of nonprofits, at a time when the demand for our services is skyrocketing.

Some cities are charging religious groups property taxes on buildings no longer used for worship. Other localities are soliciting voluntary contributions. Albany, N.Y., recently passed an ordinance asking schools, hospitals and other nonprofits to contribute to city services.

In Minneapolis, residents recently began paying a street-light fee that also applies to nonprofits . . .

Drainage fees that apply to nonprofits have been adopted by cities that include Richmond, Va.; Lafayette, Ind.; and Verona, Wis.

Such fees are emerging now because the federal government has been cracking down on how cities handle the rain that rolls off roofs, parking lots, and other impervious surfaces, sometimes causing floods and ripping up roads.

The runoff can collect debris, oil and other pollutants and ultimately drag it all into the nation's waterways.

. . . In 2010, municipalities accused of violations paid $5.3 billion in repairs, a nearly four-fold increase from 2009. Those settlements ranged from Kansas City, Mo., with $2.5 billion in fixes, to Revere, Mass., which agreed to spend $50 million on repairs.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that cities and towns need to spend more than $250 billion over the next five years fixing crumbling storm systems.

Rightardia thinks these fees make perfect sense, particularly for churches that have abused their tax exempt status for years while preaching right wing politics from the pulpit. The Catholic church is an example of a church that holds huge real estate assets in the US.

"the Catholic Church is worth well over $100 Billion Dollars"

"the Catholic Church is worth about 93 BILLION dollars in both cash
and property"

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