Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NPR's All Things Considered Discusses Tax Issues Facing Nonprofits

NPR story, Amid Red Ink, Tax-Exempts Asked To Add To Coffers, features NYCON CEO Doug Sauer.

State and local governments, eager to close their budget gaps, are increasingly going after charities and other tax-exempt groups. Government officials are proposing new fees on nonprofits to help pay for services. They're also challenging the exemptions these groups get from sales and property taxes.

In Concord, Mass., for example, the Board of Selectmen sent a letter to the town's nonprofits earlier this year. It said that local property taxes were so high they were driving residents away. The board asked the town's private schools, hospitals, charities and churches if they could start paying their fair share.

"I guess we're just hoping that in times where people are economically really stretched, that to the extent that they're able, they can contribute," says board member Virginia McIntyre.

But the initial response was not what the board had hoped. One arts group offered to contribute $1,000 to the town, but most of the nonprofits responded — politely — that they contributed to Concord in many nonmonetary ways.

'A Slippery Slope'

Kathi Anderson is executive director of the Walden Woods Project in Concord. It preserves property including Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau — who, she notes, went to jail rather than pay a tax he opposed.

"The land that is now protected is a wonderful resource, not only for people who live in the community, but for people who visit the community," Anderson says.

She says she feels the town's pain but that her group is hurting financially, too. She says it would be hard-pressed to come up with the $89,000 Concord says the Walden Woods Project would owe if it weren't tax-exempt. Even a "donation" to the town would send the wrong message, Anderson says.

"This is a slippery slope because if indeed a donation is made, then it implies that one supports the notion of having charities essentially pay taxes," Anderson says.

And that would fly in the face of the long-time relationship between government and charity — the idea that nonprofits fill a valuable community role and should be exempt from tax.

But increasingly that relationship is being challenged. Boston wants its universities, hospitals and nonprofits to pay 25 percent of what they'd owe if they weren't tax-exempt. Philadelphia is talking to its universities about similar payments. Kansas and Hawaii considered repealing tax exemptions for nonprofits as part of their budget debates. And Minneapolis has imposed a "streetlight fee" on nonprofits to help pay for electricity and bulbs.

Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits, says these moves couldn't come at a worse time.

"Corporate donations are down significantly. Individual giving is down. Foundation giving is down substantially," even though demand for charitable services is up, he says. Delaney says adding more costs will only hurt taxpayers in the long run because there's high demand for the types of services — such as health care and food pantries — that many nonprofits provide.

"When we can't [provide them], then there's greater needs in the community. And when the needs get so severe, then we're going to find people demanding that government step in. That is going to cost a whole lot more," he says.

Albany's Experience

But Frank Commisso, a council member in Albany, N.Y., says cities like his have little choice. More than half of Albany's property is tax-exempt because the city is home to so many state offices, hospitals and universities. But he says these institutions still rely on city services. Read more and listen to the story here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cayuga Community Fund Awards First Grants

Fifteen Cayuga-based nonprofit groups received grants totaling $12,500 in the first-ever distribution from the Cayuga Community Fund. The Fund, with endowment assets of approximately $500,000, was established in 2008.

Auburn Beautification Commission received $1,000 to implement community park improvements at Osborne Park. The improvements will provide recreational opportunities for community families and children with playground equipment, benches, lighting and trees.

Auburn Civic Band received $500 to purchase folding chairs for performers’ use at public band performances in Auburn and surrounding areas.

Booker T. Washington Community Center received $1,000 to support the BTW University summer program. The six-week summer program for youth ages 5-13 will offer insight into higher education and an opportunity to grow academically during the summer recess.

Cayuga Counseling Services received $1,000 to present a one-day Minimal Facts seminar to Cayuga County school personnel who are the first to respond to disclosures of child sexual and physical abuse. The seminar assists first-responders in gathering enough information about the allegation to make a report without creating undue stress to the child.

Cayuga County Community Health Network received $1,000 to provide educational programming to individuals with diabetes or prediabetes. The programming will teach individuals how to manage their diabetes through appropriate care and increase knowledge with at-risk individuals to engage in healthy behaviors that will prevent or delay diabetes occurrence.
Cayuga Museum of History and Art received $1,000 to purchase computers and digitizing equipment that will allow staff to use PowerPoint in new exhibits. The Museum, established in 1936, provides a forum for the public to interact with and appreciate Cayuga County’s past.

Chapel House received $400 to launch a garden project that will provide food to residents of the shelter. Chapel House provides homeless services to men, women and children on a 24-hour basis.

Child Care Solutions received $1,000 to purchase materials for child care providers that will encourage large motor activities for children during the winter months.

Good Shepherd Catholic Community received $500 to provide food for the BackPack Program that provides at-risk youth with food over the weekends. The program seeks to reduce a weekend meal gap and help children return to school on Monday better prepared to learn, increasing their likelihood for academic success.

Human Services Coalition of Cayuga County received $1,400 to conduct a community food security assessment. The assessment will identify the needs of Cayuga County residents for accessible, affordable, health-promoting food and formulate recommendations for effective, collaborative solutions.

Literacy Volunteers of Cayuga County received $1,000 to provide classes on GED test preparation for adults seeking employment.

National Alliance on Mental Illness of Cayuga County received $1,000 toward the purchase of a photo-text exhibit, Nothing to Hide – Mental Illness in the Family, for display at various locations. The exhibit will bring visibility to individuals with mental illness and their families to dispel stereotypes, myths and misconceptions about mental illness.

Options of Independence received $500 to help support the creation of the Personal Bank Care program. The program will provide a pantry of personal care toiletry items such as shampoo and toothbrushes that can be distributed to the county’s needy families and individuals.

Peachtown Elementary School received $500 to support the community workshop, The 4A’s: Autism, Allergies, Asthma and ADHD: Your Child’s Diet and Diagnosis. The program will help parents understand how their diets directly affect the behavior of children and their readiness for learning.

Transportation Project for Cayuga County received $700 to transport Freedom Recreational clients to and from Freedom Camp 2010. The camp, held at Casey Park, provides recreational, educational and social activities to persons with disabilities.

About the Cayuga Community Fund
The Cayuga Community Fund is a geographically specific fund, administered by the Central New York Community Foundation. The Fund was created to benefit residents of Cayuga County by serving as a source of permanent charitable dollars for nonprofits serving residents of the County. Grants are awarded from the endowment fund annually to support programs in education, health, social services, the arts, civic and environmental concerns, as well as the preservation of historic resources in Cayuga County.

The Leadership Council of The Cayuga Community Fund is chaired by Robert Bergan. Other Council members are Jim Courtney, Dan Cuddy, Ken Entenmann, Jill Fandrich, Jack Hardy, Howard Hartnett, Alice Hoatland, Marianne O’Connor, William Ryan, Lisa Marsh Ryerson, David Stapleton, and Steve Zabriskie.

The Central New York Community Foundation has served Central New York for over 80 years, receiving, managing and distributing charitable funds for the benefit of nonprofit organizations. Grants are awarded for programs in the areas of human services, arts and culture, education, environment, health, economic development and civic affairs. The region’s largest endowed philanthropic foundation, the Central New York Community Foundation awards more than $5 million in grants to nonprofit organizations annually. The Community Foundation, with its office at 500 South Salina Street, Syracuse, NY 13202, can be reached at (315) 422-9538 or http://www.cnycf.org/.