Tonawanda News

Columns

February 5, 2014

CONFER: NYS could soon tax the Scouts

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — The new iteration of the bill makes change more palatable to the dissenting legislators because the 400-acre threshold would exclude most all non-profits and would instead affect only those dozens that hold massive amounts of property, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and similar groups who need to manage that amount of land in order to offer a quality summer camp program.

Consider the local scout council of which I am president. We own Camp Dittmer (for Boy Scouts) and Camp Sam Wood (for Cub Scouts). Between the two facilities, the council owns over 700 acres of land. We could end up paying taxes on more than 300 acres that were previously tax-free.

It’s the kind of thing that keeps me up at night, because where exactly would we find the money to pay the taxes? Any non-profit will tell you that many funding sources have shrunk or dried up completely because of the moribund economy.

Because of this anticipated change in public policy, many kids will be unable to savor the outdoors because of the financial burden that the new tax will place on their organizations. When a camp is taxed the cost will have to be passed on to the customers. Considering that many camps see only a few hundred visitors per summer and the property taxes will exceed thousands of dollars annually (especially if it is prime lakeside real estate like Camp Dittmer) each attendee will pay a substantial addition to the cost of his or her vacation. This will prove to be the breaking point, the fee that causes many lower-income families to say “no” to a week of camp for their kid; many of them can barely pull it off now. That chain of events will force many scout councils to get out of the summer camp business and sell off their unique properties.

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