Our opinion: Taxing the public good

In every community there are institutions whose primary mission is to serve the public good, not chase profits.

They occupy a special place in our society and deserve a special recognition by our governments, national, state and local.

Without the infusion of tax revenue, they provide public services with the goal of breaking even and surviving to provide those services long into the future. Some of these institutions are as old as the communities themselves; others are relatively new.

But, they all have in common the selfless mission of public service.

In return for that valuable service, communities like this one decided a long time ago that they should be exempt from taxes. The rationale is that taxing a body that provides services that a local government would have otherwise paid for from taxes is not just wasteful, but foolish.

Warren County is currently testing that concept in court with respect to a half-dozen institutions in the county that have heretofore been recognized as non-profit public charities and have been exempt from local taxes. The institutions in question are involved in health care, youth development and care for the elderly among other services.

The federal Internal Revenue Service recognizes them as non-profit and gives them special tax privileges on that level. Collectively they provide hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps millions, each year in free services to the community, services that might have fallen on the shoulders of the government that is now trying to tax them.

The original rationale for tax-exempt status holds true today as much as it did when the original decisions were made.

This newspaper believes that taxing Warren General Hospital, the Warren County YMCA, The Rouse-Warren County Home and the other entities involved in the current debate is folly and would do a disservice to the community that local government is charged with trying to protect and enhance.