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To the Editor:
On Friday morning the State Senate Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee will vote on a tax for summer camps, sports programs, and swim lessons (SB 877 An Act Concerning Revenue Items To Implement The Governor’s Budget) to help pay for Gov. Lamont’s proposed budget.
The YMCA of Greater Hartford is very concerned about this proposal, and we have sent letters to the Committee in an effort to contribute to the conversation. We are worried that a tax would discourage parents from enrolling their children in life-saving swim lessons and life-changing summer camps and sports programs due to the increased financial burden.
The leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 4 is drowning, and it is the second leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14. Drowning is particularly prevalent in minority communities. That is why the YMCA works to ensure that every child has access to learn preventative skills. In 2018, the YMCA of Greater Hartford taught more than 3,400 individuals how to swim, including 150 children who learned to swim for free as part of a Hartford Foundation grant, and 170 individuals who received financial assistance to help them afford to attend lessons.
In Connecticut, 33 percent of children are considered obese. Sports instruction helps get kids active and motivated by providing them specialized programming that they might find an interest in. We offer sports like archery, gymnastics, parkour, rock climbing, basketball, t-ball, soccer, and so many more. Sports at the Y start at 18 months old, and are offered for people of all ages.
Meanwhile, summer camp serves many purposes in a child’s development. Our BELL Power Scholars Academy is a summer learning experience that helps reduce summer learning loss and increase physical activity. Summer camp fosters lifelong friendships and relationships, and teaches kids to become independent, creative adults. In 2018, the YMCA of Greater Hartford’s 13 summer camps served nearly 4,000 individual children, more than a quarter of which received financial assistance due to their inability to pay the full stated rate.
We hope that this information will encourage the Committee to vote no on imposing a tax on summer camps, sports instruction and swimming lessons. Most YMCAs in Connecticut do not currently have systems in place to collect sales tax, and the financial burden of the tax itself, as well as the needed software to collect the tax would be immense to the YMCA movement.
YMCA of Greater Hartford