You pay property taxes (pressumably). I pay property taxes. But some of the biggest landowners in town don’t.
St. Mark’s, Fay School, The New England Center for Children, and Harvard are all tax-exempt non-profit organizations, which means they’re not required to pay property taxes on land they own. But while they don’t pay taxes, they still use town services like police and fire, and those services cost the town money.
To compensate for the lost tax revenue, most non-profits make yearly donations to their municipalities. The thing is, the amount of those donations — called payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) — is at the sole discretion of the non-profit, and in the case of Southborough, the amounts vary wildly.
Take, for example, NECC. They make an annual PILOT contribution of about $77,000. Fay School, on the other hand, gave the town just $5,000 last year for its PILOT.
If your jaw hit the floor at that last factoid (mine did), it may make you feel a little better to remember that the non-profits offer benefits to the town like employment, prestige, and recreation space, benefits that can be hard to quantify.
In 2007, the ad-hoc PILOT Working Group put together a report that tried to assess the complex relationship between the town and its non-profits. At a meeting last month, selectmen decided it was time to update the report, and they’re seeking volunteers to join a new PILOT committee. If you’re interested, contact the Selectmen’s office.
The three LARGEST non-profits in town: St. Mark’s School, Fay School, Harvard University (some folks don’t even know Harvard has a facility here).
I wonder what the combined worth of those properties is, and, IF they were taxable, how much the town would receive every year?
I’m new to town…where is Harvard’s property?
It’s actually off of Parmenter Road in Marlborough, between Pine Hill Road (Southborough) and Broadmeadow Road (Marlborough). It’s home to the Harvard University Book Depository (a huge storage library) and the New England Regional Primate Research Center ( http://www.hms.harvard.edu/NEPRC/ )
The storage library is totally benign but primate research?!?! in Southborough?!?! Ugggh.
It’s been there for….oh at least 40 years
Town-gown relationships are typically tenuous, but I think other facts should be called out so people don’t get the wrong impression, like the fact Harvard donated the town’s 911 system a few years back, St. Mark’s lets the town use (sometimes destroy) its lawn every fall for Heritage Day, donates facilities for programs like lacrosse (the Cage, so practice can begin early before the fields are ready), free ice time on its rink during vacations, and other intangibles. In addition, all the non-profs made generous donations to the ladder truck fund as well.
You can’t run a fire truck on free ice! And just how much building have they been doing the past few years, done are on the tax rolls.
Wow. I’m most surprised about Fay. $5000 would not cover the taxes of just one of the adjacent homes that they have purchased for faculty use and removed from the taxable rolls of the town. Meanwhile their facilities and enrollment plans continue to expand. I am also less aware of any additional outreach by Fay School comparable to St. Marks for the community’s benefit. I am probably missing something but that seems way out of line for Fay’s contribution!! I pay double that in taxes for my modest home.
Thank you Karen and Anna. Yes, they donated to the ladder truck fund, but rest assured, it’s the first real contribution to the town in lieu of taxes in years. These schools ought to be following the lead of New England School for Children. They are the real champion non profit group in town. They have always been friendly, and show genuine appreciation for what the town, particularly the fire department, has done for them over the years.
I agree with Anna. A $5,000 PILOT contribution from Fay??? From a school that charges $40,000 – 50,000 per annum per student? Ridiculous and embarrassing, really.
Perhaps Fay would consider a major contribution to the Main Street renewal project -to place the utility lines all under, widen the sidewalks, put in flower/tree planters, etc. This would not only benefit the town, but enhance the value of Fay’s property.