I read a nice article this weekend from Michelle Kinsey about the youth programs in our parks.
According to the article, “About 215 kids are participating in the P.A.R.K.S. Program day camp…that number does not include the children participating in the other recreation programs this summer, from cheerleading to Judo to Zumba, held in the afternoons at the park and other locations. The free camp is operated by Friends of Conley and made possible through partnerships with the city of Muncie and other community centers. Breakfast and lunch is provided by Second Harvest Food Bank.”
The partnership is funded by Mayor Dennis Tyler from his EDIT funds to the tune of $60 thousand. Earlier this year, Mayor Tyler told City Council that he is expecting the city to find a way to budget for these programs in the future.
Before council members look to the overall tax base to assist in this worthwhile cause, I’d like to once again make a recommendation.
As a reminder, a similar question was posed several years ago by the Editor of our Gannett paper, and my response raised the blood pressure of Cathy Clark, CEO of the YMCA. So much so, she threatened to have me banned from all facilities (she later followed through with her threat)
Before I make that recommendation, let’s rephrase the question and ask, “Why isn’t the YMCA reaching these kids?”
As taxpayers in the community, we offer tax-exempt statuses to organizations like the Y who promise to improve the overall wellness of our young kids. However, the YMCA offers “scholarships” or “discounted memberships” which are only affordable by a small percent of the population.
Overall, from YMCA insiders, a typical branch serves around 8% of the population for any given community.
In effect, 92% of the population is subsidizing membership fees for 8% of the population who can afford health club dues, but get even cheaper dues because the Y doesn’t have to pay property taxes.
If you don’t consider the Y a health club, do you see any competition in Delaware County? Of course not. They are a health club and the only competition is the brand new recreational complex at BSU which is only available to employees, students and alumni – how convenient. More taxpayer subsidized memberships for which the majority cannot utilize.
Starting to sense a theme here? Tax exempt status with exclusivity.
Not to point out the obvious, but in Delaware County, the YMCA is conveniently located near their affluent members. They’ve positioned themselves with two clubs in Northwest Delaware County, and none are located in the south or east side of Muncie where you’d traditionally see a non-profit assisting “underserved” populations. However, you will find Buley Center, Boys and Girls Club, Ross Center, and Blood n Fire, etc.
Our YMCA operates more like an exclusive health club membership for affluent citizens in our county while not contributing one penny to our tax base. If they lost their tax exemption (which they should, and might), what would happen?
They would have to charge more to health club members (8% of our population) for their opportunity to work out in a facility operated by a CEO making over $150,000 a year (not a bad salary for a non-profit in Muncie, Indiana).
After a quick phone call to our Delaware County Assessor’s office, we discovered that if the YMCA paid property taxes on their facilities in downtown and northwest Muncie, the city would receive an additional $250,000 in property taxes which would go a long way to support these youth programs in the parks over the summer and maybe throughout the year. How many more kids could be served?
Back to the question of, “Who should pay for programs in our existing park system?”
Before we immediately look toward the easy solution and just increase taxes on those who cannot afford another tax increase, let’s focus on those who are already benefiting from our economic structure and ask them to pay their fair share first. Ask the YMCA and their members to pay property taxes on the real estate owned in Muncie, so a larger majority of our kids can benefit from the great work the Friends of Conley are doing in our community.