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Bedford council ponders fee breaks for nonprofits

BEDFORD - As budgets face continued streamlining, the town will address the waiving of permit fees for nonprofit organizations.

Pool permitting fees and fees for food licensing have been waived by other town managers for nonprofit organizations Camp Allen and the Boys and Girls Club of Manchester, and the town has received requests to do the same for the 2013 summer season, and received a verbal request from the Caregivers of Bedford.

At the Council's Feb. 13 meeting, Town Manager Jessie Levine asked members to discuss how they want to handle such requests.

"My recommendation is that we deny the requests in the absence of a policy or a provision that allows us to broadly honor them in some way," Levine said, but he suggested that councilors be consistent in deciding which fees are waived for which organization.

In the 2011 and 2012 budgets, town funding was cut for the Meals on Wheels program, with the council indicating that they should not be choosing on behalf of residents which charitable organizations receive support.

"This has nothing to do with the value or the purpose and quality of the organizations that issued the request," Levine said, but noted that there should be a larger discussion by the council.

Councilor Ken Peterson said budget discussions in past years have brought up the issue of town funds being used to support nonprofits, and that there are thousands of good nonprofit organizations in existence.

"But it's not our right to be allocating taxpayer taxes to charitable organizations," he said.

In a phone interview, Levine said the council is grappling with whether to waive the fees, which total about $800.

"You feel like the Grinch," she said. "It's an uncomfortable position to be in."

Levine pointed out that the organizations in question already receive an exemption for property taxes.

"They're already receiving a significant contribution from the town because they're tax-exempt," she said.

Town Council Chairman Bill Dermody said at the meeting that he didn't think the fee waiver is the same as including funding nonprofits in the town budget, and asked Levine to draft a policy to address the issue of fee waivers that will be discussed at the council's next meeting. 

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