AUGUSTA — The snow may be piled high, but dozens of Maine summer camps are already sounding the alarm about a proposal by Republican Gov. Paul LePage that would force many to pay property taxes.

LePage’s two-year budget proposal includes a recommendation that the state change its law to allow cities and towns to charge a 50 percent property tax on nonprofit organizations that hold more that $500,000 in assessed property value.

Aimed at the state’s largest and most valuable nonprofits such as hospitals and private colleges, LePage’s plan would also hit nonprofit summer camps, many of which hold valuable waterfront properties.

Many of the state’s summer camps are on properties that were either purchased or donated years ago, but their values, like all waterfront in Maine, have steadily increased, according to Ron Hall, executive director of Maine Summer Camps.

Halls said some of the camps would likely be unable to afford any property tax bill and would be put out of business, while others would have to dramatically reduce programs, including scholarships for low-income campers.

“The tax money has to come from somewhere, and every dollar that camps have to pay in these new property taxes is one less they can use to provide a lasting experience for our children,” Tom Doherty, executive director of Camp Ketcha in Scarborough, said in a prepared statement. “The devastating result is that far fewer children will be able to attend, and fewer programs will be offered. In the end, our children would bear the burden of this new tax. How is that fair?”


About half of the state’s 200 or so summer camps are nonprofits.

“Maine summer camps are undeniably part of the culture of our state; they are part of what makes Maine special,” Mary Ellen Deschenes of Girls Scouts of Maine said. “The proposed budget would have a devastating effect on Maine’s camps and, ultimately, Maine’s children.”

Barry Costa, director of the YMCA Camp of Maine, said summer camps provide the state’s children with valuable experiences.

“Ask anyone who went to camp in Maine, and I’m certain they would tell you that they learned invaluable skills, such as self-confidence, problem-solving and teamwork, along with an appreciation for the outdoors, an understanding of sportsmanship and social skills,” Costa said.

“Maine camps give young people a solid foundation,” he said. “Can we really afford to forfeit that?”

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