EDITORIAL: A healthy dose of dollars from WellSpan

York Dispatch

We like WellSpan Health's idea of a "gesture."

The nonprofit health care provider recently pledged $1 million over two years to financially struggling York City, which will use the money on public safety initiatives.

The organization also is kicking in another $300,000 over three years to cover the cost of the city's medical director.

"WellSpan recognizes the economic challenges that are currently facing the City of York," said organization spokesman Brett Marcy. "We wanted to continue to be strong partners with the city. And we thought at least a gesture of that would be to expand our ongoing support for first responders."

If only more of York's nonprofit property-owners felt the same way, maybe the city wouldn't be in such dire straits.

York City faced a $7 million deficit heading into 2015, and at one point more than 46 police officers positions were slated to be cut to close the gap.

A last-minute deal with the police union saved all of those jobs, but four firefighter positions were eliminated in the final spending plan.

Now, nonprofits are not the root cause of the city's financial issues, which have been brewing for decades, really.

But they are a large piece of the puzzle.

Nearly 40 percent of the York City's property tax base — valued at some $600 million — is made up of institutions such as churches and charitable organizations that are exempt from paying taxes.

City officials over the years have made concerted efforts to entice these nonprofits to chip in — at least something in most cases or a bit more from those that already contribute — toward the cost of the services they use.

The results have not been insignificant — in the $300,000-to-$500,000 range — but not enough make a real impact on York's situation, either.

WellSpan, which owns York Hospital in the city, typically is among the most generous of the nonprofits.

The company originally pledged $300,000 toward the city's 2015 budget but recently bumped that to $500,000 — and added another half million for next year.

"From our perspective, investing in a safe and secure City of York is in the best interest of all parties," Marcy, the WellSpan spokesman, said.

That's a great attitude. Let's hope it's contagious.