Neighborhood Assistance Act spells early tax season for some firms -- in a good way
Tax Day has finally passed, but two local outfits are already hoping to cash in on next year's process.
The American Institute of Neuro-Integrative Development (AIND) of Southport, and Fairfield Counseling Services are the sole organizations in town that applied for the state's Neighborhood Assistance Act Program this year.
If accepted by the program, they'll be eligible to collect tax-deductible donations from individuals and businesses this fall -- the AIND would be eligible to receive up to $20,000 in contributions; Fairfield Counseling Services up to $15,000.
But the applicants must clear some local hurdles first. Up first -- next week's Board of Selectmen hearing, where their applications will be open for public comment. The meeting will take place Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Sullivan Independence Hall.
From there -- assuming the applications are approved -- they will go before the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) for endorsement. Only then will they move on to the state's Department of Revenue Services for final judgment.
According to Mark Barnhart, the town's director of community and economic development, next week's hearing -- and the subsequent RTM vote -- helps town inform the state whether the applicants' proposals have the town's backing.
"It's a good way to provide funding to organizations that provide services to Fairfield residents," Barnhart said. "And it's a win-win from a business standpoint, as many businesses already make charitable contributions. This enables them to qualify for a tax credit."
The AIND said that the $20,000 it's requesting to be eligible for would help provide "vocational training to students with developmental disabilities." According to its website, the organization helps children ages three to 21 who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, developmental disabilities and related neurological impairments meet their educational and therapeutic needs, "while supporting meaningful inclusion and participation in their home school district and community."
Fairfield Counseling Services said that the $15,000 it's requesting to be eligible for would help fund new initiatives aimed at combating underage drinking. The move would be part of the town's new "Fairfield Cares" task force on alcohol and health.
Director Dorothy Timmerman said she hopes to expand the center's "dual-diagnosis" program, which serves patients with both substance-abuse and psychiatric problems -- such as alcoholism and depression -- to the adolescent population.
The center can't mix adolescents and adults in treatment groups, she said. For one thing, the contexts in which they turn to alcohol are vastly different, she said. For another, the physical effects of drinking for the two groups can be quite different, requiring different strategies for counseling.
"While alcohol might impair what kids will do, it also actually puts a halt to some of their developmental requirements," Timmerman said. "They're not done with brain development, for example. So alcohol not only causes them to make bad decisions and take greater risks, it also affects memory. There's a substantial body of research indicating the harmful affects on the adolescent brain which is still maturing; and that's not even mentioning the drinking and driving issue."
The counseling center's $15,000 request is the exact amount that the town cut from the center's funding in this year's budget.
Last year, five organizations in town had applications accepted by the Neighborhood Assistance Act. They included Operation Hope, the Fairfield Police Department -- as part of its DUI-enforcement program -- and a Mill Hill Elementary School project to put photovoltaic solar sensors on the school's roof and collect energy.
The latter project was ultimately cut, Barnhart said.