WICHITA, KS -- Amid controversy over its nonprofit status, the Greater Wichita YMCA recently announced the purchase of land adjacent to its downtown branch and its intent to rebuild that branch on the wider footprint, rather than on an entirely new site.
Initially, the Y considered purchasing city-owned riverfront land for a new downtown branch, but city business owners argued against the plan, saying Wichita would lose tax dollars since the Y has nonprofit status, local TV station KAKE reported.
“The board wanted to look at the riverfront site and are thankful the city and Mayor Brewer gave us a chance to explore this option,” Thomas Lasater, president of the Greater Wichita Metropolitan Board of Directors, told KAKE news. “Through due diligence, we determined that rebuilding on our current site is our best option to serve downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Earlier in the year, The Kansas Health and Fitness Association (KHFA) ran a half-page ad in the city’s newspaper suggesting the Wichita YMCA should no longer be given tax exempt status. The ad published excerpts from the Y’s 2007 IRS tax form and took issue with the organization’s use of only about 10 percent of its resources for tax-exempt purposes.
“The Greater Wichita YMCA's profit has grown from about $3.5 million in 1999 to nearly $12 million in 2007. It clearly can afford to pay taxes of about $3 million it would owe,” George McCrary, president of the Kansas Health and Fitness Association, wrote in an editorial that appeared in The Wichita Eagle.
The KHFA also alleged that the Y was neglecting lower-income areas in the city by moving its branches to middle- and upper-middle-income areas.
Timing for the downtown Y construction project was not announced and will be determined by the board of directors, Lasater told media.