'Charitable' status for police should help fund extras
While the so-called 501(c) designation for nonprofit organizations has left a black mark on the Internal Revenue Service with its admitted targeting of Tea Party groups, the Johnstown Police Department intends to use the newly obtained status to help ease the burden on taxpayers.
In May, the Johnstown Police Officer's Foundation received word from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine that the organization had earned the 501(c)3 status from the IRS.
The attorney general's office keeps a registry of the state's charitable groups.
"This is very, very important in the sense that we can apply for grants that we normally would not be able to apply for," said Police Chief Don Corbin. "The public puts their hard-earned money into the tax fund to run the village and, hopefully, this will alleviate some of that pressure."
Those grants and donations can be used to buy uniforms, equipment such as Tasers, laser radar and other items outside of officers' salaries which are now paid from the village general fund.
The police department has an authorized strength of 10 officers, but currently has nine on the payroll, Corbin said.
"We can use the money for virtually anything related to crime fighting," Corbin said. "For example, we might be able to use the money to pay overtime for two officers for traffic enforcement, or to pay for an air-conditioned cage for our K9 unit. This is just another tool to have to help fund the department."
The Ohio Attorney General website lists more than 200 charitable police organizations, including Fraternal Order of Police lodges.
The 501(c) code of the IRS provides more than two dozen types of nonprofit organizations which are exempt from federal income taxes, but an organization is subject to taxes on its unrelated business income.
The law states that 501(c)3 organizations are prohibited from support political candidates.
Donations to 501(c)3 groups also can be written off as charitable donations on individual federal tax returns.
A committee will oversee the Johnstown Police Officer's Foundation.
"The status is widely used," Village Manager Jim Lenner said. "This really just provides another way for the police department to receive grants and funding. A lot of times, municipalities aren't eligible for grants."