We now stand in unprecedented territory. All 50 state governments are in a deficit situation with 2011 and 2012 looking worse (since the federal stimulus funds that many states have used to plug budget holes will run out).
This, of course trickles down to counties and municipalities, nearly all of which have their own budget woes.
Which leads us to our question of the day: Should real property owned by nonprofits be taxed at the same rates as that owned by for-profits? Before you scream bloody murder, think about it for a moment. Take a city like Boston, with many, many hospitals, universities and church facilities (and hundreds of other nonprofits) living side by side with other owners who pay property tax. Some estimates of the percentage of Boston land owned by nonprofits are as high as 20%...meaning that the cost of police, fire, roads, trash, etc for all city properties have to be picked up by only 4 out of 5 owners. Fair?
On the other hand, there is no doubt that nonprofits contribute to the public good in many ways. Does that compensate enough?
And, government is often a key (sometimes mojority) funder of nonprofits--and it certainly doesn't overpay. Does that underpayment for services compensate for the property tax lost?
Obviously, I come down on the side of keeping nonprofit property tax-exempt. But the voices FOR taxation are growing louder. In Camden, New Jersey, a move to tax nonprofits on a per-employee basis just died, but the fact that it was even introduced shows the desperation of some governments to fill their budget gaps.
Here's a few readings on the subject.
Keep yourself informed about this growing (and concerning) trend.