Earlier this year, the Idaho Athletic Club and Axiom health clubs raised questions with the Ada County Board of Equalization about whether the West Boise YMCA, a nonprofit, could legitimately claim property tax exempt status.
Club representatives said the West Y had begunusing parts of its building for adult programs like Crossfit, rather than for childcare.
The board initially sided with Idaho Athletic Club and Axiom and reduced the Y's tax exempt status from 100 percent to 19 percent.
The board based the 19 percent on the Y's estimate of the number of clients who benefit from charitable programs, including reduced membership fees, said Commissioner Dave Case.
The Y appealed the board's ruling at a hearing on Thursday. After a crowded, frequently emotional meeting during which Y patrons testified about the value of the organization, the commissioners voted unanimously to restore the Y's 100 percent exempt status.
No one from the Y attended the hearing in which the commissioners voted to reduce the Y's tax exemption status.
Jim Everett, executive director of the Treasure Valley Family YMCA, said filing the organization's tax exempt application is usually routine. Like all nonprofits, it files for property tax exemption status each year. No one has challenged the Y before and he and his staff had't expected anyone would challenge the organization's status this time.
The Y, he said, did not move childcare facilities out of the building in the interest of more adult programs, like those offered by Axiom and other for-profit fitness clubs. A new, larger childcare center, which recently opened at the West Y, freed up space for other uses.
Everett said the Y is unique among fitness clubs in its mission to welcome members from all strata of society, regardless of their age or ability to pay.
"We want every demographic at the Y," said Everett.
On any given day, a homeless person might be working out next to a former refugee or a million-dollar donor, or a high school student.
"The most unexpected combinations of people get to meet each other at the Y. That's not going to happen anywhere else," said Everett.