Study shows how nonprofits help Stonington

Stonington - The town's Nonprofit Roundtable group has completed a two-year, 100-page study that shows the town's 148 nonprofit organizations provide an important economic and quality of life benefit for the town.

The study, called 'The Economic and Social Impacts of Public Charities in Stonington, CT" was the work of groups ranging in size from the Salt Marsh Opera and the LaGrua Center to Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport, that came together to learn "who we are and what we do" according to roundtable Chairwoman Wendy Bury.

"Nonprofits are really overlooked and underestimated. Nonprofits are major economic drivers and are major contributors to the local and state economies," she said.

Bury added that the nonprofits "feed " the for-profit businesses in the region by buying goods and services.

"Nonprofits provide an economic benefit. They just don't take. They give," she added. "The numbers prove that."

Although it is difficult to measure, she said "a big part of the culture of Stonington is because of these nonprofits."

They provide arts, recreation and educational programs and assist people in need.

"As residents, we don't imagine what our community would look like without organizations like the COMO, the Mystic Seaport, New England Science & Sailing, the Salt Marsh Opera, Mystic Area Shelter and Hospitality, the libraries, and the Stonington Historical Society, among many others," Bury said,

In the report's summary, she pointed out that without many of these organizations, the cost to taxpayers would be much greater to provide essential services.

For example, the town does not run its own library but relies on three nonprofits to provide library services.

While the town does contribute a total of $282,000 in annual funding to the Stonington Free, Mystic & Noank and Westerly libraries, that is far less costly than running a town library.

That also applies to the three ambulance companies that serve the town which are given $90,000.

The study looked at 41 of the 148 public charities with annual revenues in excess of $25,000 as this gave the group IRS tax data.

It found these 41 annually account for approximately 779 jobs, $34 million in wages and salaries and $83 million in business sales in the region. In 2010, total expenditure was almost $60 million by the Stonington public charities core group.

In addition they account for $4 million in various types of tax revenue for state, local and federal government.

The study also conservatively estimated the nonprofits generate $20 million per year in tourist visitor spending. That number appears to be low as the slightly less than 1 million annual visitors to the Aquarium and Seaport spend money not just at the two attractions but at local shops, restaurants and hotels.

Bury said determining the exact impact of tourism related to nonprofits would require a more detailed study.

The report is available online at www.StoningtonEDC.com.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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