Selectmen talk PILOT donations with state rep

by susan on February 9, 2011

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Above: State representative Carolyn Dykema at last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting

Payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) contributions — voluntary donations made to the town by tax-exempt nonprofit institutions — have been a hot topic on the blog this past week. Last night John Rooney and his fellow selectmen reiterated their stance on PILOT contributions: It’s all about fairness.

State representative Carolyn Dykema listened as Selectman John Rooney laid out his case for why nonprofit institutions in Southborough should, in most cases, increase their PILOT contributions to the town.

Representatives from St. Mark’s and Fay School were invited to attend the meeting, but none showed up.

Rooney said it was the civic responsibility of the nonprofit institutions to “step up and support the town that supports them by giving voluntary contributions.” He called PILOT donations “reimbursement” for the services provided by the town.

Late last month Rooney, with the support of the Board of Selectmen, asked St. Mark’s to increase their annual PILOT donation to $300K. They declined to do so. He asked Fay to increase their donation to $200K. They have not yet responded to the request.

Dykema said Southborough is not alone in trying to get fair compensation from nonprofit institutions. “It’s a statewide problem,” she said. “There is a critical mass of folks who are ready to come together around this issue.”

Dykema recently signed on to co-sponsor legislation that would define guidelines around PILOT contributions. Dykema said while the contributions would remain voluntary, the legislation would help “bring institutions to the table and establish rules of the game around what’s fair.”

Rooney thanked Dykema for her efforts, but questioned if the bill goes far enough. “I don’t unerstand why educational institutions are still afforded an exemption. In fairness why are we still exempting their property from the tax roles?” he said.

Still, Rooney said he hoped the pending legislation would be enough to encourage Southborough nonprofits to revisit the conversation over PILOT contributions. “Maybe they’ll pick up the phone and say ‘let’s talk again.’ That’s all we’re asking for,” Rooney said.

The call to step up PILOT contributions is not limited to educational institutions. Rooney said he would be approaching churches in town next week with a similar request. More on that on the blog tomorrow.

If you want to take a look at Rooney’s presentation for yourself, I’ve posted it here. It’s a large file (2.7MB) so download may take a bit.

1 Al Hamilton February 9, 2011 at 6:23 PM

I don’t have much confidence it the “suggested donation” approach. Southborough has been suggesting, in pretty clear terms, that the schools donations are inadequate for some time. This sounds like “feel good” legislation that will permit the legislature to pretend they have addressed the issue while not upsetting Harvard, MIT, BU, BC Tufts WPI etc.

I am kind of sorry that Rep Dykema, who I think is smarter than this, would trot this out and think it was serious.

I think we might take a more proactive stance. No, we cant send the schools a bill and expect to collect it but we can use our free speech and assembly rights. A polite but substantial picket line with signs complaining about the issue on say graduation weekend or when students are returning to school might raise the issue is a different way that might receive a different reception. (Sorry I am an old rabble rouser from way back).

2 djd66 February 9, 2011 at 10:18 PM

Is this exemption just a Massachusetts thing or is this something that other states deal with? I agree with Al, the voluntary “suggested donation” has not been working in the past and I would not expect things to change from any of this “feel good” legislation. The laws need to change so the schools and any one else that utilize town services pay for those services. Why should our town subsidize the true cost of St. Marks?

3 Al Hamilton February 10, 2011 at 7:50 AM

I believe this is a problem nationwide. I know in New York State it is an issue.

4 bob a February 10, 2011 at 8:24 AM

Please

Urge Carolyn Dykema and Steve Levy introduce some legislaation to change the law. I am sure that there will be support from the City of Worcester, where they have been trying to get more funds from the colleges there. St Marks and Fay have been around a lot longer than Boland and Rooney and have some of the top lawyers in the country as alumni. The fight will not be an easy one. Notice how they blithely ignore requests from our selectmen.

Our selectmen should forget about any funds coming from nonprofits and figure out ways to cut our expenses. Here’s one – 5% pay cut for all teachers or a layoff of an equal amount. I like the idea of saving all of our great teachers and no lay off. Take the pay cut or lose staff. Same policy across the board of all of our municipal employees. Our employees are great but can we afford them?????

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