The Haines Borough Assembly was asked on Tuesday to approve sales tax exemption for three nonprofit organizations, two of which are based outside Alaska. They ultimately approved them, after a lengthy discussion. The stipulations around tax exemption come up pretty regularly, and the question raised by the assembly members is the same: Who qualifies? Or better yet, who doesn’t?

Assembly members questioned the criteria for the tax break.

“Exactly how much sales tax exemption can our community handle?” Assemblyman George Campbell said. “I look at the list that’s in our packet and I shake my head. I’m not saying that some of these organizations don’t do great things, but folks, $400,000 deficit. We need to start looking at what we’re doing.”

The three organizations seeking exemption were the Baha’i Community of Haines and Klukwan, the State YMCA of Michigan, and Summerside United Methodist Church, based in Ohio. The last two are from out of state, but work closely with Haines-based Alaska Mountain Guides. AMG brings in groups of people associated with the two organizations, including Boy Scouts, to participate in excursions in and around Haines.

Assemblymember Mike Case questioned the two agencies asking for relief that aren’t based in the borough. But AMG owner Sean Gaffney told the assembly his business has worked hard to bring outside groups to Alaska to enjoy the state, and spend their money here.

“I believe that without this, they will just go to another location,” Gaffney said. “And probably with us, probably not in Haines. They’ll probably go somewhere where their federal tax exempt status is honored.”

In the end, all three nonprofit tax exemptions were approved. After that, the assembly unanimously passed a motion to send the topic to the finance committee to figure out more specific criteria for the sales tax immunity.

According to the borough, there are around 80 nonprofits that are based, or do business, in Haines and are exempt from paying sales tax.