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PC(USA) leaders call Wisconsin governor to protect campus ministry

Pres House at U of Wisconsin could lose tax-exempt status

June 24, 2011

LOUISVILLE

Leaders in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are petitioning Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to maintain the tax-exempt status of a Presbyterian ministry on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Presbyterian Student Center Foundation, known as Pres House, has had a presence at the university since its founding in 1907. It provides student housing, and revenue goes towards its ministries — scholarships, worship, small groups, service trips, volunteer work, pastoral counseling and an on-site chaplain.

Pres House is tax-exempt, but the 2011-12 Wisconsin State Budget includes a provision to revoke that status. Friends of Pres House and leaders in the PC(USA) are urging the governor to veto that provision, which, if passed, would cost the ministry about $200,000 a year, effectively shutting it down.

To learn more about the debate around Pres House, read the June 7 PNS story detailing it.

The full text of the letter:

June 17, 2011

Dear Governor Walker,

We write on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its more than two million members urging you to veto the provision in the 2011-2012 Wisconsin State Budget that would repeal the property tax exemption of the Presbyterian Student Center Foundation at the University of Wisconsin.

The Foundation, often referred to as Pres House, has had a presence at the University'S Madison campus since its founding in 1907. As part of a revitalization of its ministry, Pres House constructed a student housing building with 250 beds in 2000. Residents pay rent, and the revenue that is generated is used solely to fund the mission work of Pres House including scholarships for residents to lower rent costs, service trips and volunteer work in the Madison community, pastoral counseling and an on-site chaplain presence. These services are available not just to Pres House Apartments residents but to all students on campus.

Repeal of the Foundation's property tax exemption will have a devastating effect on its ministry as well as the greater university and Madison communities. It is estimated that the resulting tax bill would be around $200,000 annually.

Higher education is the oldest continuous form of mission in the Presbyterian Church beyond the local congregation. Presbyterians believe that society benefits from students who graduate with both educated minds and educated hearts. We urge you to veto this provision and preserve the Foundation's ministry to Wisconsin's flagship university.

Sincerely,

Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

Linda Valentine Executive Director, General Assembly Mission Council

Cynthia Bolbach Moderator of the 219th General Assembly

  1. Thanks to the support from the General Assembly and hundreds of pastors, students, parents, alumni, and citizens from all over the state of Wisconsin Governor Walker has just announced he is vetoing the provision that would have removed our exemption! We are thrilled that Governor Walker has affirmed the value of campus ministry by retaining our property tax exemption.

    by Rev. Mark Elsdon

    June 24, 2011

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