LETTERS: YMCA – Why Lysander?

To the editor:

No one can question the overall community benefit provided by YMCA fitness centers, nor can anyone question the good intentioned motives of its hundreds of thousands of volunteers, paid employees and contributors nationwide. However, let us not forget, the YMCA is also one of the largest most powerful and influential “not for profit” (tax exempt) organizations in America.

With more than 2,600 locations, 20 million members, 20,000 full time employees and annual revenues approaching $5 billion, we as taxpayers must depend a great deal on independent “watch dog” groups to monitor YMCA tax exempt compliance in both the letter and spirit of the law. After all, each and every one of us, whether we use the YMCA or not, are subsidizing their tax exempt status and tax deductible contributions, so we should all care a great deal.

One such watch dog group, Citizens Against Government Waste, with more than one million members and supporters, has helped save taxpayers more than $700 billion since 1986. In a 2003 special report, CAGW commented on the YMCA’s relatively recent trend to flock to affluent communities, stating in part, “when a local YMCA decides to build a state-of-the-art fitness center in affluent communities instead of providing programs for underserved individuals and families, the organization is deserting the very elements of the entire community that it is legally bound to serve.”

This is not intended as a general condemnation of local YMCA efforts in the greater Baldwinsville area; however, it is intended as “food for thought” as to possible reasons for their stubborn insistence on sticking with Drakes Landing in Radisson as their primary site choice, even after their plans were rejected by the Lysander Planning Board.

One very real possibility may be the simple economic need to “maximize revenue.” In other words, choose a site that maximizes “full membership fee” potential, and minimizes their need to provide “lower cost/income-based” memberships for families with a household income of less than $60,000 per year. Now consider for a moment, the estimated 2009 median household incomes for Lysander ($72,424), Van Buren ($52,673) and Baldwinsville ($44,570), and then try convincing yourself that I am wrong.

I believe it is truly time for the YMCA to move on with their building plans and better live up to both the spirit and letter of law regarding their tax exempt obligations. In other words, build where they will do the most good for the most people and better serve the needs of the entire community as a whole.

James Kocik is a resident of Radisson.

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