From a tax perspective, non-profit organizations are “tax exempt” because they don’t pay federal or state corporate income taxes. They must make a “profit” through revenues from fees, donations and grants must exceed expenses, or else eventually the organization goes out of business.
As tax-exempt organizations, they do not pay local property taxes, which support public safety, schools and the library.
Normally, this is a good thing because these organizations use funds that would otherwise be paid in taxes to provide services to their customers, members, patients and clients. Monies not spent on taxes can also be spent on employee payroll and benefits.
Unfortunately, we not living in normal times. Rising prices have raised the cost of local government beyond what is provided by property taxes paid by families and for-profit businesses. Property taxes increase by 3% per year, and labor unions are negotiating for 8% raises.
Yet many families and small businesses are struggling and would be hard-pressed to pay higher local taxes even to pay for more law enforcement.
We need some outside-the-box actions to generate more funding for local law enforcement. Here’s the idea:
The boards of local non-profit organizations can vote to voluntary contribute the amount of law enforcement property taxes they’d pay if the organizations were for-profit.
This makes sense because local non-profits benefit from a safe community. When a crime is committed or a fire starts on non-profit property, who do they call? 9-1-1. Police officers and firefighters arrive in minutes.
I’m not saying that churches should pay the property tax equivalent. Churches don’t pay taxes, and city and county governments don’t pay a 10% tithe to churches.
I am saying that it’s time for non-profits to give something back to the community in this way. I recommend that city and county leaders post such contributors on their websites so that thankful citizens can express their appreciation.
Finally, how about school districts contributing a dollar a day per student to fund local law enforcement? A school district with 5,000 students would contribute $900,000 per year. This could pay for six officers who patrol our streets and keep our parks safe.
I can already hear non-profit and school board members crying, “We can’t afford this!” Well, neither can many families and businesses. Let’s consider doing our share and paying for the local law enforcement that we all want and need.
Richard Emmons is the publisher and editor of the Josephine County Eagle.