Thursday, March 21, 2013

Non-Profits, Churches Don't Want to Save the Bay Either

Baltimore County synagogues, day schools and other religious and nonprofit institutions are bracing for the impact of higher property taxes due to a state-mandated stormwater fee.

The fees, proposed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s administration, would be assessed as part of the estimated $33 million Baltimore County needs to comply with 2012 legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly that requires the state’s 10 largest counties to establish stormwater fees by July 1.

The state legislation was designed to help reduce the amount of sediment and other stormwater runoff that makes its way into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Such runoff is considered to be the main source of pollution to the Bay.

Institutional property owners, which include hospitals, non-profits and religious institutions, will pay a fee of $36 per 2,000 square feet of impervious surface, according to figures provided by Vince Gardina, director of the county’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability.

Gardina added that commercial properties in Baltimore County pay a fee of $69 per 2,000 square feet of such surface. In addition, homeowners would pay a flat fee each year between $18 and $36. Those fees would raise about $23 million with the remaining $10 million coming from the county...

County Councilwoman Vicki Almond (D-2) said while the goal of the fee is admirable, she still has questions on the financial impact it could have to residents, businesses and other organizations.

“Right now my biggest concern is for the nonprofits,” Almond said. “A lot of these groups are struggling financially already, and I worry that additional taxes could lead some to shutter their doors. Trying to save the Chesapeake Bay is fabulous, but that doesn’t make it any easier for those with the burden of an additional tax, which is what this is. I just hope we can work out something that is fair to all.”
I think that non-profits paying almost half of what a business is paying is more than fair.  Why should a non-profit, or church pay less than a business, which is trying to control costs.  Most likely, increased costs for businesses come at the price of higher prices for the rest of us (presuming the business is able to increase it's prices) or by a decrease is jobs if the business is forced to close, or decrease personnel to control costs.

The idea of Chesapeake Bay Foundation and similar NGOs demanding and getting a break on their environmental assessments tickles my sense of irony.

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