The OD editors raise valid concerns about fees possibly driving people and businesses out of the city and becoming excuses to increase spending. These are things that Utica needs to come to grips with, if fees are not going to create more problems than they solve. But that is why it is so important for the OD to explore what happened in Rochester.
The valid concerns, however, are no justification for not charging NFPs their "fair share" for the services they receive from Utica taxpayers. Per the OD editors:
But while nonprofits don’t pay taxes, they do provide human services this city could not do without. They reach out to the city’s poorest residents whose needs, if left unmet, might end up costing taxpayers even more. Places like Hope House, New Horizons, Catholic Charities, Thea Bowman House, dozens of houses of worship and so many more people-committed agencies provide essential services ranging from meals and clothing to day care and housing. Their clients are most often people caught in the cracks of life who have no place else to turn. . . .Every community has poor, and to the extent that they need services, they are everyone's responsibility. But for many, including the OD editors, the concept of "community" seems to stop at the city line, as though city policies made a high percentage of its citizens poor and needy. Of course, they did not.
Slapping a tax on that is not only wrong, it’s unconscionable. Any “fee” would only end up being paid by the same generous people who already donate time and money to keep the facilities going.
For years Utica taxpayers were forced by law to pay significantly higher taxes than the surrounding jurisdictions in order to fund welfare programs for the poor. This made sense at the time the laws were drawn because municipal boundaries were the boundaries of the "community" economically speaking, containing both its rich and poor.
With the advent of the automobile, however, it became practical for people to make their living in the city, while living in another jurisdiction near by. It also became possible for people to leave the high taxes of the city behind. While many who could afford to move just wanted more space and that new house, the low if non-existent local taxes in the suburbs were also an attraction. (My understanding is that New Hartford at one time had NO Town taxes.) The rest is history. Wealth concentrated in the new "suburbs" while the city became increasingly poor . . . which, in a perverted feedback-loop, raised city taxes and drove even more to the 'burbs. The stark contrast between homes in Cornhill and those just 2-3 miles away in the upper Tilden Ave and Higby Road areas of New Hartford is breathtaking. No one wants to deny those in New Hartford their fabulous homes -- they worked long and hard for them -- but why should they not have to shoulder the burden of municipal services to the region's NFPs while those in Utica do?
The OD's solution is for the city to "tighten its belt," but how can that work when Utica has the lion's share of the region's tax exempt properties, owned by the NFPs, as well as taxpayers who have the region's lowest incomes? The OD's solution is no solution.
While the OD editors periodically beat the "racism" drum, they apparently are OK with "class-ism" -- safe behind their municipal boundary wall.