Local governments everywhere are hurting for revenue due to lower tax collection. In Cleveland a sales tax is being recommended to balance the budget. Even so, the city and county will be facing a tough time financially and are desperately looking for ways to increase revenues without causing a revolt by money strapped citizens. An increase in taxes is never welcomed but it is even less palatable if a segment of the community is avoiding the tax man while still benefiting from services. In our community there are many businesses not paying property tax. There are a number of churches that are tax exempt and those are by-and-large acceptable exemptions, but many organizations claiming tax exempt status are profit making entities with profit making sidelines that pay no community taxes.
Take Lee University as an example, the campus teaching space is tax exempt, which may be acceptable to most citizens, but would you support all Lee's rental properties and dorms, for which they gain revenue, be tax exempt? Did you know that if property tax is not collected then no fire tax is collected? Fire service for Lee is supported by home owners, but Lee's homes for rent do not pay either. The Church of God and other religious organizations own numerous properties that are not used for religious worship, yet are tax exempt. Some ordinary businesses also avoid taxes even though they compete directly with the tax paying community. The YMCA comes to mind and the Creative Arts Guild, but there are sure to be others. Counting religious, educational, charitable and government there are over 1000 parcels exempt in Bradley County.
While many of these are genuinely exempt in the public interest, there are many who's status is questionable which are lumped into exemption with bonafide properties. It must be remembered that every property exempt from tax, also is exempt from paying for fire protection which has to be supplemented by extra taxes on those that do pay. Every tax exempt property occupies space that could be taxable and provide commerce that is beneficial to the community. Some tax exempt parcels are located in prime areas of the city that would normally bring in premium tax dollars. Also, there may be a liability if a residential fire is neglected while a large fire is being suppressed at a tax exempt property such as Lee University. Without doubt Lee University is a tremendous asset to the City of Cleveland but it may be past time for them to start paying for the services they receive, especially on those properties that bloat their bottom line.
That's what I think. What do you think?