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.