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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 11:38 AM
Original message
LAT: Churches Putting Texas Town Out of Business
Churches Putting Town Out of Business
Stafford, Texas, has 51 tax-exempt religious institutions and wants no more: `Somebody's got to pay for police, fire and schools.'
By Lianne Hart, Times Staff Writer
July 31, 2006

STAFFORD, Texas They are not the words one expects to hear from a politician or a Southerner, and Leonard Scarcella is both: "Our city has an excessive number of churches."

Scarcella is mayor of this Houston-area community, which has 51 churches and other religious institutions packed into its 7 square miles.

With some 300 undeveloped, potentially revenue-producing acres left in Stafford, officials are scrambling to find a legal way to keep more tax-exempt churches from building here.

"With federal laws, you can't just say, 'We're not going to have any more churches,' " Scarcella said. "We respect the Constitution, but 51 of anything is too much."

Stafford, population 19,227, is the largest city in Texas without a property tax, and it depends on sales taxes and business fees for revenue. Nonprofits have been attracted by its rapid growth and minimal deed restrictions. "It's thrown everything out of balance, plus providing zero revenue. Somebody's got to pay for police, fire and schools," City Councilman Cecil Willis said....

http://www.latimes.com/business/taxes/la-na-churches31j...
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Uppanotch Donating Member (50 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 11:39 AM
Response to Original message
1. Leonard Scarcello is a good man. I know him. nt

nt
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Lars39 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 11:43 AM
Response to Original message
2. More about who attends:
"As best as we've been able to determine, the overwhelming majority of people who attend here don't even live in Stafford; they're coming from everywhere else," Willis said. Elsewhere includes Houston, about 15 miles northeast, and nearby Sugar Land.
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VegasWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 11:44 AM
Response to Original message
3. This one's easy!! Let god handle all of the fire and police issues. nt
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Freedom_from_Chains Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 01:11 PM
Response to Reply #3
10. Your house is on fire.
Pray for rain.
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OregonBlue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 09:34 AM
Response to Reply #3
36. Exactly, let them fight their own fires. If the community cannot afford
these churches, let them step up to the plate and do their own dirty work, supply their own services. Keep up their own roads, supply their own paramedics, etc.
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Tight_rope Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 11:48 AM
Response to Original message
4. I have lots of friends and family that live in Stafford.
Edited on Mon Jul-31-06 12:40 PM by Tight_rope
They moved there because of the low/no tax rates. I don't think they know their taxes are on the rise. I better warn them.
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LisaM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 12:09 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Are they Libertarians?
how do they expect to pay for their infrastructure?
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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 12:29 PM
Response to Original message
6. The Flying Spaghetti Monster shall place a noodly appendage upon Stafford
and declare, "Upon this meatball I build my church."

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purji Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 05:35 PM
Response to Reply #6
19. Ramen N/T
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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 12:44 PM
Response to Original message
7. lolololololol
Whodda thunk it? Somebody has to pay for police, fire and schools. Wow

51 churches in 7 square miles? Wow. I know growing up in Georgia, we used to joke that you couldn't go a block without running into a church, but that was an exaggeration - sometimes you had to go two blocks.(and then there were the dueling dewberry baptists - but that's another story)

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dbackjon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 12:49 PM
Response to Original message
8. Good for him bringing that up
This is actually a major problem in more than just this town - but politicians (especially here in the South) are deathly afraid to touch it.

Nashville is FULL of tax-exempt organizations, mostly religious, than strain the infrastructure, but pay no taxes - churches, colleges, etc.
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Freedom_from_Chains Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 01:11 PM
Response to Original message
9. Not since we are now officially a Christian Nation.
:sarcasm:
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Charlie Brown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 01:24 PM
Response to Original message
11. I think using eminent domain would be a good solution to this problem
The city can relocate the churches beyonod the town-limits, and join with a private contractor if they can't afford it.

Then, hopefully, they can pass stricter building codes to discourage large worship centers.

Everyone wins.
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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 06:06 PM
Response to Reply #11
21. They could un-incorporate the land where all the churches are n/t
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Nabia2004 Donating Member (566 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 03:30 PM
Response to Original message
12. At least 27 Churches in my old home town
This in the small city of Mountlake Terrace, Washington. About 5 square miles in size. Most are found on the cities main street. Its freaky as hell, 2 to 3 per city block. This is a small place, there may be more churches than tax paying businesses. I know there is if you measure it in square footage. The City council has been trying to put a stop on any more, but it seems like each year a new one goes up.
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sandnsea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 03:39 PM
Response to Original message
13. We have 18 for 8,000 people
And we're not a very churchy town, although we do have a lot of old people who may tilt the balance a little. Then again, once you get your basic soul groups, it ought to take a while until you need to add another completely building. I think 51 flavors means people aren't seeking "God's Word" at all, but really want a place to have their own beliefs validated.
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RUMMYisFROSTED Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 03:49 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. ...or their own money sheltered.
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sandnsea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 04:00 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. Well sure
I imagine there's lots of was to shelter money within a "church", for everybody involved.
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RUMMYisFROSTED Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 08:18 PM
Response to Reply #16
23. Right smack dab in the middle of it.
It's an honor.
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illumn8d Donating Member (693 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 03:55 PM
Response to Original message
15. Why is levying a property tax not an option?
The article doesn't even address that.
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Charlie Brown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 06:01 PM
Response to Reply #15
20. It sounds like the churches have monopolized city land
and they are tax-exempt.
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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 09:18 PM
Response to Reply #20
27. No, the City Father do NOT want to adopt a Property Tax.
And when you have a Revenue Shortfall you do not want to blame the Voters nor the business people who lobby you. Once you eliminate those two that leaves the Churches, no matter how many or how few exist. This city will have to adopt a Property tax sooner or later, but like most such adoption they will blame everyone before doing so.
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Wednesdays Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 04:11 PM
Response to Original message
17. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em...
Declare the entire town a church and pass around a gigantic collection plate.
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GoddessOfGuinness Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 04:12 PM
Response to Original message
18. Time to put an end to religious tax-exempt status.
The Jesus biz is big business!
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VegasWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 06:09 PM
Response to Original message
22. I volunteer to be a priest in the Church of the Democratic Underground.
For tax purposes of course!
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Baselinereality Donating Member (213 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 08:43 PM
Response to Original message
24. Hard to Believe a Society Needs a Tax Base, Huh?
And those die-hard Republicans thought it was all just a dirty liberal trick to take their money from them and their Jesus.

Perhaps this will be a historical day when Texas starts to figure out there is more to good livin' than just Jesus and bar-b-que.

But now I am kinda curious to discover just how quickly 51 churches in a 7 mile radius would take to burn without a fire department. Not that I'm advocating arson, mind you. But I would like to know if Jesus likes to play jokes with lightning bolts.

And one final observation:

In a town that inundated with houses of worship, one way to maximize their tax revenue from the remaining acreage would be to build as many strip clubs as possible. People surrounded by that much piety love a good pole dance.
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 09:01 PM
Response to Original message
25. Dear Stafford, TX: I have a great solution to the problem.
Why don't you just "privatize" the fire, police, etc? Let those who can pay for the services receive the services, and those who can't don't. It's real simple, and that way the budgets of the richest folks won't be strained (can't have them giving up the caviar and champagne, now, can we?).
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Kailassa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 09:00 AM
Response to Reply #25
34. Australian fire services were privately owned a century ago,
I don't know about American ones.

The businesse sold fire insurance, and if you had a fire you called the fire service you were insured with to put it out. Competition in the business lead to the various groups of fire fighters sabataging each others' fire engines, and getting to the other team's fire first, and preventing the insured company from getting their truck there, and making the house-owner change his policy over and pay them before they put it out.

Of course it was not unknown for them to light the fires themselves, either.
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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 09:15 PM
Response to Original message
26. Earlier thread from same source.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...

Please note the the City is the LARGEST CITY IN TEXAS WITHOUT PROPERTY TAXES. Thus the fact that the Church's are TAX EXEMPT from property taxation is having NO AFFECT on the City Budget. The Problem appears to be that the City has ground so large it needs to adopt a PROPERTY TAX but it does not want to.

At the present time the city revenue is from the Sales Tax AND the business privilege tax (along with any deed transfer tax). Thus the fact that it has 52 Churches is NOT affecting its tax base, for when it comes to property it has none.

My impression of this comment is the City Council is upset that it has a revenue shortfall and wants to blame everyone except its Voters and its Businesses (which leaves the Churches). Sooner or later it will have to do what every other City in Texas has done, adopt a property tax. They do NOT want to so are blaming everyone but themselves.
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R Hickey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 09:37 PM
Response to Original message
28. The superstition industry is big business and should be taxed.
Why should an organization that claims to espouse make-believe get a tax exemption? We need a constitutional ammendment to tax the churches. Letting crooks like Reverend Moon, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell get by without paying any taxes, is a sin.
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midnight armadillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-31-06 10:38 PM
Response to Original message
29. "Tax the FUCK out of the churches!"
To quote Frank Zappa.
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krkaufman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 08:05 AM
Response to Original message
30. Chuckle. Sounds like they've created the problem themselves. n/t
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noonwitch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 08:22 AM
Response to Original message
31. It is probably good for the local Waffle House and IHOP, though
my first job was waiting tables at an IHOP in a city with a lot of churches. The after church crowd is good for the breakfast business. We would get packed from 11 am to around 2pm on Sundays-the trucker crowd was earlier, like 6am to 9am.
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Ezlivin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 08:26 AM
Response to Original message
32. When tax receipts fall too low even Repubs turn on the churches
I live next to Southlake, Texas, a very upscale town (average house cost is over $400). They have had a development bonanza with lots of gated communities and a Town Square with tenants like Apple Computer, the Hilton and Jos A Bank.

Since it's the South, churches are springing up everywhere. And that has finally posed a problem to this fast-growing town: It threatens the handsome tax base. (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localn... )

It does seem reasonable to start enacting property taxes on churches.
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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 01:00 PM
Response to Reply #32
37. Why just Churches?
Read the article, the City had NO PROPERTY TAXES AT ALL, thus if you want "Property taxes on churches" don't you think you should at least also tax business and residential property?
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Ezlivin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 01:10 PM
Response to Reply #37
38. I meant in general
I was referring to churches in general, not just in the area mentioned by the article.
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MissMillie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 08:41 AM
Response to Original message
33. Put all the churches on one street and then make it a toll road
:shrug:
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Kailassa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-01-06 09:04 AM
Response to Original message
35. For as long as churches are tax-exempt, .
church and state are not being kept separate.

Even Jesus said, "render to Caeser that which is Caeser's."
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