Friday, October 30, 2009

Editorial Submitted to the Paper

It seems that non-profits have been in the news a lot recently.
Normally, and I say this with some experience as the director of a non-
profit, these organizations have to push and prod to get noticed by
political aspirants. But as the Binghamton mayoral race draws to a
conclusion, it seems that two of our mayoral candidates cannot seem to
say enough about how non-profits are an untapped revenue source for
municipalities. One candidate goes so far as to say that he will
shame non-profits into paying taxes or a fee to government for use of
government services. Not wanting to speak on behalf of all non-
profits, or even on behalf of my organization, I offer the following
as a response of a taxpayer and a citizen of Binghamton.
Many of the charities in the City of Binghamton perform mandated
services on contract with county and state governments. The reason
these municipalities contract with faith based charities and secular
not-for-profits is that these organizations can perform the same
services with better outcomes at a fraction of the cost of state run
programs. The question that this raises is should non-profits that are
performing these mandated programs on behalf of the government be
taxed for providing the tax saving programs that they are contracted
to perform? In short, should organizations funded by larger government
entities to perform necessary services that they would have to perform
pay for City resources on a local level? Isn't this a case of robbing
Peter (the state) to pay Paul (the City) and how does this really save
taxpayers money in the long term?
The examples of this are far too numerous to fit into a short
editorial. Catholic Charities and the Children's Home of the Wyoming
Conference save the county millions of dollars in organizing foster
care and housing at risk children. My organization works
cooperatively with the Sheriff's office in assisting prisoners leaving
the jail in developing a discharge plan and performing pastoral care
ministry at a fraction of what it would cost the county to perform a
similar state mandated program. This does not even begin to scratch
the surface of the services that Fairview Recovery Services, The YMCA
and The YWCA and the many other human resources and medical non-
profits perform in our community.
Nor do the candidates account for the non-profits that help bring us
art, books, music, plays, and opera. These non-profits add depth and
beauty to our community, but they also are economic generators. We
should not forget that Speedie Fest, the Tri-Cities Opera, The Arts
Council, First Night, WSKG, just to mention a few, raise additional
tax revenue for our local municipalities and income for businesses in
the area. Where would our community be without them?
While it is convenient and easy for candidates to propose that this
tax, let us just call it what it is, covers what it costs the city to
house non-profits, it is an entirely different proposition to say what
it would cost the city if non-profits did not exist or from where the
funds for the non-profits work comes. I think that instead of taxing
or shaming non-profits into paying a fee for city services, candidates
should instead see the many ways that non-profits save municipalities
money, help raise revenue, and influence the quality of life for all
Rev. Dr. Joseph Sellepack

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