What is La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. and why was it formed?
La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. is a Wisconsin non-stock corporation that obtained IRS 501(c)3 tax exempt status. It was formed in order to be able to help neighborhood groups solicit tax deductible contributions from individuals, provide general liability insurance and apply for grants from foundations
Why should a neighborhood association join La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. as a Chapter?
La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. was formed in response to a long described need by the neighborhood associations. As a Chapter member of La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc., the individual neighborhood associations can share resources for administrative and financial functions. The most immediate needs that La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. has been asked by associations to help with are: banking, insurance, tax exempt 501c3 status and grants.
Who can be a member of La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc.?
Membership is open to any person or organization that supports our purposes – dues are not required to be a member, however voluntary contributions are encouraged. Membership types include Members and Chapters. Chapters receive the additional benefit of being part of the 501c3 as well as administrative and financial services in return for sharing the costs with the pool of other Chapters.
Why isn’t the Neighborhood Revitalization Commission (NRC) a part of La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc.?
The NRC is a body created by the City of La Crosse Common Council to advise the City on issues the City can and should address to revitalize our neighborhoods. The NRC has no authority or jurisdiction over private groups or individuals, and their approval is not necessary but working collaboratively with them is a top priority. Each has their place in the efforts to improve our neighborhoods, however given the limitations of government bodies
Why can’t the neighborhood associations be part of the City of La Crosse?
They can, but there are many difficulties with such an arrangement. The City of La Crosse has very specific powers and duties as a municipality in Wisconsin. Every board, commission or committee formed by the City must follow not only the state laws, but the city’s ordinances and the Common Council rules. These include requirements such as the Open Meetings laws and financial restrictions
If the neighborhood associations were part of the City, an ordinance would be required to create the structure for the neighborhood associations. Usually this would entail the leadership of each neighborhood association to be appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Common Council.
Each neighborhood association would then be required to publish agendas, provide minutes and account for all funds as required by law. This would be extremely difficult for each neighborhood association and the City to comply.
Does being “recognized” as a neighborhood association by the City of La Crosse provide any legal status?
No, it does not provide any legal status. Being “recognized” by the City of La Crosse only provides for a neighborhood association to submit the applicant to the Mayor for approval by the Common Council to be appointed to be a voting Commissioner on the NRC, and have their neighborhood plan approved by the Common Council.
The only way for a neighborhood association to obtain legal status is to incorporate, such as in cooperation with LCNI.
Why can’t a neighborhood association incorporate on their own?
They can! There is nothing preventing any group of people with a common cause or purpose from forming their own corporation.
Washburn is already incorporated. Many of the neighborhood associations in other cities are also incorporated, with many having formed 30, 40 or even 50 years ago.
Why can’t a neighborhood association incorporate on their own? (continued…)
Incorporating is relatively easy and inexpensive. It is often everything else that goes with being a non-profit that becomes a bit more challenging, time consuming and expensive.
So what becomes a bit more challenging, time consuming and expensive for a non-profit?
A Wisconsin non-profit corporation is not an IRS tax exempt organization and until it is, all income to the non-profit corporation is taxable. Also a non-profit corporation that is not an IRS tax exempt organization cannot solicit tax deductible contributions from individuals and is very limited in the ability to apply for grants.
A non-profit corporation can apply to be recognized as an IRS tax exempt organization, however the application requires a non-refundable fee of hundreds of dollars, which is often more than most neighborhood associations can afford by themselves.
Non-profits also have initial and annual filing requirements with the State and Federal Government that take time, money and some expertise to complete.
Can La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. engage in political activity?
No, we cannot engage in any political activity such as campaigning for or endorsing a candidate or referendum. This includes circulating nomination papers or petitions for a referendum, contributing to a political campaign or committee, or otherwise supporting a political campaign or committee.
Individuals that also happen to be Officers, Directors or Members of course are not limited in their ability to be a candidate for any political office, or support any political campaign or committee; however, they must be careful to do so as an individual and not infer or imply La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc.
Can La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. lobby?
Yes, we can appeal directly to legislative bodies and representatives and may support issue-based legislation. However, we must notify the IRS of our intent to lobby by filing Form 5768, which formally informs the IRS we have elected to use the expenditure test to have the organization’s lobbying activity measured. Under this test, lobbying capacity is typically limited to spending less than 5 to 20% of the organizational budget on lobbying activities, depending on the size of your organization.
If we do not hire a lobbyist or have paid staff that lobby, our volunteer Officers, Directors and Members are permitted to lobby, subject to the limitations of our by-laws and the rules for each legislative body.
What can La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. advocate for or with legislative bodies and representatives?
We can advocate for additions, changes or deletions in whatever policies and laws we agree meet the purposes and goals as established in our by-laws.
Can La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. host candidate or referendum forums or debates?
Yes, we can, provided we are very careful to remain neutral and provide an equal opportunity to the candidates or committees. Unless a forum can be well organized with a moderator that knows and understands how to properly manage forums or debates, it may be wiser not to do so in order to avoid any real or apparent favoritism or conflicts of interest.
Can La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. permit candidates or committees to circulate nomination papers or petitions at meetings?
Yes, we can, provided we are very careful to remain neutral and provide an equal opportunity to the candidates or committees. Given the difficulties of knowing who all of the candidates might be for an elected office, or all of the committees that may form in support or opposition to a referendum, it would be best if nomination papers or petitions were not circulated at meetings.
What people do before or after a meeting, however is their personal business, and beyond that ability of La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. to control.