Hold on a minute for the rest of the story
There has been a lot of talk lately about the role of government with regard to non-profit organizations. Once again the Board of County Commissioners is in the crosshairs; but I, for one, think this is a healthy debate that needs to be aired.
I have been quoted as saying that I believe government should make no contributions whatsoever to non-profit organizations. That is not entirely accurate. Let me set the record straight.
I do not believe that government should be making cash donations to select non-profit organizations which provide specific services or otherwise spend the money they collect. Many of the non-profit organizations that support certain causes or provide services to specific segments of the community are very worthwhile. I support many of them personally with my own and my family’s resources. But if it is just a donation, I believe the donations should come from private individuals and companies, through individual choice, not forced donations from the taxpayers.
However, if a non-profit organization provides a service that otherwise would be part of the traditional range of services provided by government (such as fire and rescue), then I believe an appropriate level of government funding is appropriate. County government has long contributed to these organizations.
I have a personal and deeply held belief that it is not the role of government to extract money from its citizens by coercion (i.e. taxation) and redistribute that money to select organizations which happen to be in the favor of the people currently sitting in office. Government should support these worthwhile organizations in other primarily non-monetary ways, and in Frederick County we do that in a very big way.
Did you know that many non-profit organizations in Frederick County collectively receive a tax break of over $10 million per year? That’s right, these organizations, if required to pay county property tax like everyone else, would be paying over $10 million into the county coffers. I do not – and have never – supported revoking this select tax status for these organizations, but most people do not realize how much of a break the taxpayers are giving these organizations by allowing them to exist and support their organizations free of county taxes.
Also, I’ll bet many people didn’t realize that even with the proposed cuts in funding to non-profits there is still over $26 million of direct support in the proposed FY2013 county budget for the poor, the needy and those who need a hand up. I call this community support, and no one is talking about eliminating this aspect of the budget.
That’s right, over 10% of our non-Board of Education budget is directed to these programs that support the lower income members of our community. These programs include the Scott Key Center, the Developmental Center, Montevue Assisted Living, Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center, Transit, Frederick County Health Department, Family Support Center, Department of Social Services, Child Support Services, volunteer fire companies, senior centers, Workforce Development, Meals on Wheels, Office of Children and Families, the county’s housing department, and the Child Advocacy Center. And Head Start, although much in the news when it was turned over to private administration – like every other county in the State of Maryland does – continues to use county facilities at no charge at a cost to the taxpayers of approximately $94,000 per year.
And some might be surprised that some of our more successful non-profit endeavors in Frederick County are the work of organizations that take no government money whatsoever. Organizations such as the local Rescue Mission and Mission of Mercy provide an enormous level of services, and depend solely on private donations.
Also, local grassroots efforts such as Christmas Cash for Kids, lead by Bob Miller at WFMD930AM radio, raises significant sums of money every holiday season, all of which is distributed to needy children to ensure they have a Christmas. These programs have never asked the government for money, and have thrived. So, it is not impossible to do without government funds.
If you look hard enough, and beyond the headlines, you can see that in Frederick County the safety net is still there and it is taken seriously. Government must have compassion, not only for those in need, but for the taxpayers. The Board of County Commissioners is doing its best at this point to keep its word and keep its commitment to all in our community.