When my family and I walked into Grace Church, we could not help but be wowed and impressed.
Then I paused and asked the question, what does Grace Church actually contribute back to the community of Eden Prairie?
The answer ... very little.
As a nonprofit leader in Minnesota said: "Nonprofits have tax exemption for a reason -- they provide service to the community that lessens the burden on government. We are partners with government and the community".
Tax payers agree the purpose of tax exemption to nonprofits is to lessen the burden on government,. Nevertheless, charities and other nonprofits have become a hotbed of tax evasion and abuse, according to the head of the Internal Revenue Service.
An example of abuse is Mega churches using tax payer subsidized land grabs to ruin our communities resulting in a defunding of our schools.
Grace Church of Eden Prairie MN is one such clear example.
This 80 Million dollar state of the art facility sits on 62 acres and rivals any large shopping mall. Grace Church does not pay any form of taxes leaving the Eden Prairie community to pay for supporting infrastructure such as roads, utilities, sewer, fire, police and rescue.
As a result of Grace Church tax exempt status, consider the amount of lost property taxes which otherwise would benefit the City of Eden Prairie schools, libraries, community centers, parks & recreation, sanitation, and local infrastructure.
The average Eden Prairie MN housing density is 5 + homes per acre. Grace Church Eden Prairie sits on 62 acres which amounts to a potential of 310 homes and commercial buildings being removed from the property tax role. Now multiply 310 home owners paying $3800 in annual property taxes which equals $1,178,000.
Over the last 10 years this tax payer subsidy cost the City of Eden Prairie and shorted tax payers out of $11,178,000. This tax subsidy is being passed on in the form of increased property tax burden on financially stressed Eden Prairie families and businesses.
Does this seem right, just or even sane?
I am a huge advocate of nonprofits that actually share the burden of government such as hospitals, homeless shelters and organizations that return an equitable amount of services back into their local communities.
However, I do not believe Grace Church and others like it return anything close to $11,178,000 back to the local community of Eden Prairie MN.
While many of the initiatives by Grace Church benefits its members, it does not mean these benefits should be subsidized by increased burden of property taxes imposed on all faiths, ethnic cultures, families and businesses of Eden Prairie MN.
Local tax payers agree and demand the city of Eden Prairie MN requires churches pay for supporting their real costs to the city in the form of a progressive property tax, or PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). Many communities across the country are successfully developing a plan to impose PILOT fees to recover the cost of inequitable tax exemptions from large wealthy churches and nonprofits that take more than they give back to the local community.
In a time of economic crises where Americans are forced to move from their homes due to the inability to pay real estate taxes, churches should not be allowed to remove valuable tracts of prime real estate from the tax rolls, cause increased tax burden on local families and businesses and continue to ride the "no taxes" gravy train.
Call your state and local government representatives to stop this unfair inequitable tax subsidy that hurts local communities, families and businesses.