Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Churches Kneel Before 'Rain Tax'

Prince George’s churches embrace alternatives to stormwater fee
. . .A 2012 law required Maryland’s nine largest counties and the city of Baltimore to establish a stormwater fee to pay for the improvements. Churches with large parking lots, despite their status as nonprofits which typically exempts them from certain taxes, would be responsible for dealing with or paying for their stormwater runoff as well.

“I felt like it was a tax that was being assessed to churches,” said the Rev. Diane Johnson, of Jerusalem AME Church in Clinton, of her first reaction to the fee. “I know that we’re all going to have to do our part if we’re going to overcome the damages being caused by poor stewardship of the resources of this Earth. The question is how to do it.”
. . .
Instead of simply assessing a fee for the amount of impervious surface a church owns (its parking lot and roof, for example), nonprofits in the county can now enroll in an Alternative Compliance Program that allows them to reduce their fee in exchange for reducing their footprint.
. . .
Through the program, churches can take several steps to reduce their annual stormwater fees from $372 per impervious acre to almost nothing, although everyone still will pay a $20 administrative fee.

The nonprofits receive a 50 percent reduction if they donate the use of a portion of their property to the county to install a rain garden or other filtration device. The county provides what is typically additional landscaping, and the church is then responsible for maintaining it.

Churches also can create educational programs or green ministries that encourage the congregation, and especially youth, to build rain barrels or learn about their impact on the environment. These programs result in an additional 25 percent off the fee.
Preaching the environmental gospel for the state is only good for 25% reduction?
The remainder of the impact fee can be waived if the church practices “green housekeeping” by reducing fertilizer use and keeping parking lots free of trash that might wash into waterways.
It's too bad that private, non-clerical property owners cannot get their taxes waived for the same acts. Nagging your neighbors and building a rain garden should be sufficient.

Except that the point of the 'rain tax' was to raise money for storm water management. By accepting non-monetary substitutes for the taxes, the counties are undermining the purpose of the program. Unless the point of the program is simply to exert state supremacy over the citizens and churches both.

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