Should Fairfax County give non-profits a property tax break?

Author Pete Earley is calling for tax relief for the non-profit Brain Foundation. But would this open the floodgates for other non-profits? (courtesy Pete Earley)
Author Pete Earley is calling for tax relief for the non-profit Brain Foundation. But would this open the floodgates for other non-profits? (courtesy Pete Earley)

The Brain Foundation is one of the many great non-profit groups in our area who provide a valuable service, in this case housing for the mentally ill, and we’ve featured it in this space before. But now it needs more than $14,000 to pay property taxes on four houses in Fairfax County, and foundation officials raise the interesting issue: Should a non-profit group, providing a service which saves the county money, receive a waiver from property tax?

Author and journalist Pete Earley, who has also become an activist on mental health issues, posted a hard-hitting blog item this morning saying that The Brain Foundation now houses 28 people who would otherwise be in publicly funded institutions or on the street. Also, there’s an 18-year wait in some cases for housing for the mentally ill, and Fairfax City has actually waived property taxes on the three Brain Foundation houses there (those compassionate fiends!).

No one denies the value of the Brain Foundation. But the bigger issue here is this: If you grant one non-profit a break, will the thousands of others in Fairfax County demand one too? And will this encourage many more organizations (or individuals) to obtain non-profit status simply to avoid property taxes? Fairfax used to grant such waivers in the past, and was given the authority to do so by the General Assembly, but stopped in the early 2000s 2002 because A) they didn’t want to pick and choose among worthy applicants, and B) they needed the money.

Pete’s blog post is compelling, as always. (But what about a photo credit, Pete?) Read it and tell us what you think the answer is in the comments.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
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Tom Jackman · May 10, 2013