BOISE It was a huge win for the West Boise YMCA Thursday morning as it won its fight with two local health clubs.
In April, Idaho Athletic Club and Axiom questioned whether the West Boise YMCA should be 100 percent exempt from property taxes.
That questioning led to the Y's tax exempt status dropping from 100 percent to 19 percent.
Thursday, Ada County commissioners said yes, they deserve that tax exemption and changed their initial decision.
The YMCA has been tax exempt since its inception over 120 years ago. April was the first time someone questioned that status. Ada County commissioners say they were obligated to look into the Y's status.
It was never about the value of the Y to the community, in my mind, it was about process, said Commissioner Rick Yzaguirre.
In April, when Idaho Athletic Club and Axiom questioned how the West Boise YMCA used some of its space, there was no one from the YMCA at that meeting.
This all comes down to the use of two parcels and I know that over time that the YMCA programs come, programs go, uses do change. Has there ever been a question before in the past as to the use of... asked Commissioner Jim Tibbs.
There has never been a question before, and that's why we were a little caught off guard here, said YMCA CEO Jim Everett.
Thursday morning's hearing was a chance for the Y to present its case, since it wasn't at the hearing in April.
I had a phone message this morning that everybody was saying shame on you for doing this and again, had we had the information we needed at the very beginning, we wouldn't of had to gone to all this extent, said Commissioner Dave Case.
For upwards of 45 minutes the Y had witnesses testify of the charitable work it does for the community. Per code the Y had to prove two things:
- The property belongs to a charitable organization.
- The property is used exclusively for the charitable purposes that the organization was designed to pursue.
In the end, the commissioners were sold and unanimously decided to restore the Y's 100 percent property tax exemption. The Y supporters in the hearing room broke out into cheers.
This was a good day for this community, first and foremost and kids and people who most need a hand up, said Everett.
Shaun Wardle, with Idaho Athletic Club, one of the two gyms that filed the original complaint was also in the room.
Wardle told KTVB Wednesday that they brought these questions forward as concerned taxpayers. He's disappointed with the commission's ruling.
I still think that some of the activities at the West Y are very similar to commercial activities that we charge dues for. The Y charges dues, and I still think that those types of uses should pay their fair share of taxes, said Wardle.
Most of us can see through that. I didn't see any other concerned taxpayers here. You saw the crowd that was there, it was a packed house, standing room only and it was all supporters of the Y, said Everett.
Wardle says they're moving on and appreciate the commissioners for looking into this.
As for Everett, he says they'll be more prepared if someone challenges their status in the future.