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YMCA for profit? – City challenges Y’s nonprofit status

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Milwaukee city officials have assessed $49,000 in property taxes on the city’s Downtown YMCA in a move that is being hailed as a victory by a national lobbying group of for-profit health and fitness clubs, the Business Journal reports.

Jack Lund, executive director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan YMCA, told the Journal that the city may serve as a test case for YMCAs throughout the country.

“If this can happen to a YMCA like Milwaukee, which has such an enormous presence in the city and an aggressive agenda to improve its neighborhoods and support kids, then it can happen to any Y, ” Lund told the Journal. The YMCA plans to fight the decision, he added.

A YMCA committee statement called the city’s decision “morally and legally wrong” because it ignores the YMCA’s social and financial contribution to Milwaukee, the Journal reports.

The Downtown YMCA’s revenues are used to support programs and services for the city’s under-served residents and neighborhoods, according to the report.

The Boston-based International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) – which has long challenged YMCA’s tax-exempt status — supports the decision to require the YMCA to pay about $49,000 in property taxes for 1999.

“When a business is operating for all intents and purposes as a commercial business, then it should pay taxes on that business,” IHRSA public policy director Helen Durkin told the Journal..

Dan Maier of YMCA of the USA, disagrees. “If any Y has earned its tax-exempt status, it’s the Milwaukee YMCA for all its great mission work and service to the community for so many years,” he told the Journal.

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