News & Notes

Why Taxing Nonprofits is a Bad Idea

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015
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The Background

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center attracts thousands of people each year interested in learning about Maine wildlife and habitat.

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center attracts thousands of people each year interested in learning about Maine wildlife and habitat.

Like many other nonprofits, Maine Audubon does not pay property taxes to municipalities for the conservation lands it owns. Governor LePage wants to change that. His proposal to allow municipalities to impose property taxes on real estate owned by nonprofits is bad for conservation, education, health care and practically every other service that the nonprofit sector provides to Maine people. The proposal completely ignores the widespread economic and social benefits that nonprofits bring to Maine people and their communities.

Conserved lands owned by nonprofits provide public benefits that far outweigh the costs of municipal services to them. Consider what Gilsland Farm, Maine Audubon’s headquarters and flagship sanctuary, adds to the greater Portland area. It is an oasis for wildlife and people. Tens of thousands of visitors come here each year, including legions of children who are acquiring a critical attribute of Maine citizenship: an appreciation for wildlife. Through formal programming and in countless, informal ways, Gilsland Farm delivers the public service of increasing environmental literacy for people of all ages.

Unlike some cities, whose land base is disproportionately in nonprofit ownership, most Maine municipalities have lived comfortably with the nonprofits within their boundaries. Municipal officials have not been clamoring for the authority to impose property taxes on nonprofits. The subject has recently assumed front-burner importance only because Governor LePage’s budget (the latest installment in an ongoing effort to cut state government) now includes a novel scheme for financial burden-shifting. It’s a game of fiscal musical chairs, intended to leave the nonprofit sector seat-less and paying the tab for the loss of the municipal revenue sharing.

What you can do

If you value the services that Maine Audubon and other nonprofit landowners provide, I urge you to speak up in opposition to the Governor’s proposal.  Please contact your local legislators and let them know that taxing nonprofits is a bad idea for Maine.

You can also attend the hearing this Thursday, February 19 at 1 pm at the State House in August. Get more details here.

On behalf of Maine’s wildlife and the people in the nonprofit world who are working hard to protect it, I thank you for speaking up!        

- Charles

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin started at Maine Audubon in 2014. Gauvin brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, much of it as the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading river and fish conservation organization.Gauvin most recently served as Chief Development Officer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. He collaborated with Carnegie scholars worldwide to develop program strategies and support in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.