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The QueQue

The QueQue, June 15, 2011

IRS bites LULAC

More than 17,000 Texas nonprofits had their tax-exempt status yanked recently in a sweeping federal action intended to purge the rolls of defunct organizations. San Antonio orgs like the Nimrod Rifle Club, Ethical Breeders Association, and the Koi and Fancy Goldfish Society will now have to file applications for reinstatement — if they are still functioning. As will a whopping 34 San Antonio-based chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens, which had their status revoked in late May.

The offending orgs — which included 275,000 nationally, according to the IRS list released last week — failed for three years running to file annual reports as required by 2006’s Pension Protection Act. While the IRS says most of the de-listed groups are likely defunct, the LULAC chapters will likely have to seek reinstatement.

Attempts to reach multiple local chapters and state LULAC treasurer Valentine Villa were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said the feds are taking “additional steps” to assist the groups — “without jeopardizing their operations or harming their donors.” This help is said to include reduced application fees. Other disarmed nonprofits include the Senator Frank Madla Scholarship, San Antonio Research Foundation, Military Widows Association, San Antonio Nightmare Softball, Riders of Azgard Search and Rescue, and San Antonio Oink Inc.

Cost of water going up

Rather than risk cutting pumping rights by half in periods of drought — or, worse, a takeover of the Edwards Aquifer by the feds — the steering committee of the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program is recommending raising pumping fees to reduce water use. For the typical SAWS customer, the change would mean another $1.50 per month in fees. Of course, better solutions are out there, but this was not a season for creating new taxes in Austin. Otherwise, legislation carried by SA Repub Jeff Wentworth and favored by the likes of Robert Gulley, EARIP program manager, could have led to a more equitable solution by creating a sales tax to be paid by residents of the eight counties drawing on the aquifer, and possibly downstream users, as well.

It will take some time for the EARIP to put the plan together on paper (a rough draft has been running 500 pages, Gulley said), but it still must gain approval from the likes of the Edwards Aquifer Authority (who Gulley briefed Tuesday) and SAWS before it is shot off to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service by this fall for federal approval. The plan must meet the water needs of area cities, industry, growers, and the endangered species that call the aquifer home.

“We’d rather pay a little more to keep the programs in place rather than risk the untoward consequences of the pumping cuts,” Gulley said. “We’ve got a plan we believe will pass muster and be protective of the species, but we’ve had to find a way to pay for it,” Gulley said. And with the watchdogs at the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance on board, expect it to move forward pretty smoothly, once all those technical writers wrap things up.

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