PILOT payments: Town Meeting Article and Officials discuss strategies (Updated)

by Beth Melo on February 20, 2019

Yesterday, I shared news about a potential project to bring a soccer stadium to Town. One of the things that jumped out at me was news that a big industrial/commercial parcel is being eyed by a non-profit.* That seems to mean another chunk of land could fall off the Town’s tax rolls.

It dovetails with another story I was working on for this week. Preparations for Annual Town Meeting have made the issue of untaxed land a topic of public discussion again lately.

A non-binding Citizen Petition lays out an action plan for selectmen to pursue increased PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) donations from non-profits own more than $3M worth of Southborough land.** If BOS fails to get a “fair and reasonable” increase, the Article further asks them to pursue permission from the legislature to remove the nonprofits from Dover Amendment protection.

In December, the board discussed being proactive on the issue on its own terms prior to Town Meeting.

Meanwhile, the Advisory Committee discussed having officials approach the private schools** to pay for a new Southborough Police Cruiser. The intent was to strike the expense from the list of capital items Town Meeting voters will be asked to fund.

That plan changed when selectmen updated the committee on its strategy at last week’s Advisory meeting.

BOS Chair Lisa Braccio and Town Administrator Mark Purple addressed the issue. The Town is working to update a past report showing the private schools how many resources they use. That includes the expense for staff members’ children attending our public schools. (Presumably, they are referring to staff members who live in school owned buildings.)

The board intends to take the updated information to the schools when they ask for increased long-term commitments to annual PILOT payments. Selectmen were concerned that getting a smaller commitment for one capital item would hurt the Town’s chances of getting larger long term commitments. They recommended waiting for a more comprehensive approach. 

Advisory member John Rooney, a former selectmen, weighed in on BOS’ plan last week.

Rooney had negotiated the schools’ support for some past PILOT payments. He told selectmen that the schools have been more inclined to reimburse specific Capital purchases than commit to general annual payments.

Braccio responded that Rooney’s past report on his effort was very helpful. But she suggested that the climate may have changed since then. She followed that many of the schools’ board members have changed.

As members discussed strategies for dealing with the schools, Rooney cautioned that they “watch these meetings”.

In the end, Advisory agreed to be patient and support asking voters to fund both police cruisers. Members noted that the Town would still be able accept donations from the schools in place of taxpayer funding after Town Meeting. 

You can see Rooney’s 2014 presentation here, a previous 2010 PILOT Committee Final Report here, and past blog coverage of PILOT issues here.

The full text of the Citizen Petition Article proposed by Patricia Burns Fiore, et al is below:

To see if Town Meeting will vote to request the Board of Selectmen engage in discussions with nonprofit entities owning real property in Southborough valued in toto more than three million dollars, with the objective of establishing formal agreements through which these entities contribute reasonable annual PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) amounts to cover the Town’s cost of providing services for them, for their staff, and for others associated with their activities in the Town.

FURTHER REQUESTS that: Should the efforts of the Selectmen not result in agreements with the Town’s non-profit entities for PILOT payments by October 30, 2019, that the Board of Selectmen believes are fair and reasonable and will recommend that the Town approve, it shall immediately prepare and submit a Home Rule Petition warrant article, with language similar to the language previously approved by the State Legislature for the City of Cambridge, for the next Town Meeting to vote to send to the State Legislature for approval, which Home Rule Petition when approved, will remove the Town’s nonprofit entities from protection under (MGL) Chapter 40A, Section 3, known as the “Dover Amendment”. , or do or act anything in relation thereto.

*The Metrowest Daily News/Southborough Wicked Local stories don’t make clear how many acres would be purchased if the New England Sports for Women pursues its project in Town. But the stories describes a large project and highlights the DELL/EMC campus straddling the Westborough border.

**[Editor’s Note: One of those entities is Fay School – so I should note that it is a MySouthborough sponsor.]

Updated (2/21/19 11:49 am): I had incorrectly written that John Rooney had negotiated PILOT payments for the purchase of the Fire Department’s ladder truck. Rooney clarified to me that pre-dated his efforts. He helped secure past payments for police cruisers.

1 Matt February 20, 2019 at 1:01 PM

Am I reading that presentation correctly? Breakdown of St. Marks, Fay and NECC PILOT and additional contributions at time of authoring:

St. Marks – 20k PILOT + 10k for Ladder Truck
Fay School – 5k PILOT (with year missed) and 10k for Ladder Truck
NECC – 80k + 12k for Ladder Truck

Fay and St. Marks have endowments of more than 120M and assets over 270M combined. Unclear what assets / funding NECC receives.

Is it sheer goodwill that NECC contributes 4x St. Marks and 16x Fay School? Genuinely curious about the discrepancy. Especially given the populations served by each institution.

2 Frank Crowell February 21, 2019 at 11:58 AM

Matt – your eyes are fine, your pocket has been picked. Southborough has been subsidizing the tuition at St Marks and Fay for years. Wait until you see the dollar amount of services provided. Glad to see a warrant article addressing this at next TM. Should have 100% backing of our state reps – not that I’m expecting it.

3 Patricia Burns Fiore March 11, 2019 at 4:15 PM

Actually, the information supplied to me by the finance office shows NO PILOT payments from Fay School SINCE a $5,000 payment in 2009. Since then, they have contributed $10,000 annually toward the fire truck with, I believe, the last payment made in 2018. I understand the school is discussing a contribution of $10,000 per year toward the new ($22M+) public safety complex. Meanwhile, they are also under contract to buy another residential house…
And, fyi, NECC financial report is available on its website. Tuition revenue alone in 2017 was $96,831,748. (yes, you ready that correctly.)

4 Frank Crowell March 11, 2019 at 6:00 PM

Patricia – Thank you for the run down. I did not know that Fay has another house targeted. If there is a future committee to negotiate with these institutions, I hope you are on it.

5 Publius February 21, 2019 at 3:07 PM

Fay has investable assets of around $50 millions as of close of year 2017. A nice nest egg but hardly super rich and it appears the earnings are disbursed for financial aid. St. Marks a bit larger nest egg around $140 million. Again nice but still makes the school largely tuition dependent. Most communities would be thrilled to have either one of these schools call their town home. The people who cry PILOT are the first to complain about the destruction of the town character when one a private school closes (see Newton). Nonprofits provide a public good. Plenty of students benefit by the education received at both schools and for some financial aid is the only way it happens. Negotiate with the nonprofits. All nonprofits. But no one should expect a bail out.

6 Frank Crowell February 22, 2019 at 11:15 AM

No one is expecting a bail out. Those who are bringing it up merely want Fay and St Marks to pay for services rendered. 

Other nonprofits? Majority would be churches where most of the members are property taxpayers. As for NECC, I think they have a policy where their PILOT contributions at least equal the tax dollars lost when they expand. What a concept.

I guess you can lump us all into the ones who complain about losing town character or ones who complain all the time and should just move. How about this categorization: citizens who want educational nonprofits to be good neighbors and pay their fair share. Pretty simple – not even asking for back payments – just start paying now and every year going forward.

7 Matt February 22, 2019 at 1:14 PM

The presentation seemed to indicate that many comparable institutions pay more for the benefits the town provides. I think that is the discussion. Fortunately I haven’t seen much if any discussion of the value of having these schools or anyone wanting to have them suffer through unreasonable contribution.

Compromise seems like a worthwhile pursuit.

Is that something historically that has happened?

8 AlHamilton February 22, 2019 at 9:22 AM

“Most communities would be thrilled to have either one of these schools call their town home.”

I think this statement is debatable at best. How would Southborough react if a new school were to think about coming to town and told us. “You will need to raise taxes to provide us with $400,000 in new services but don’t worry, we will ease the burden by $20,000 or so if we can. ” I think thanks but no thanks would be clear answer.

Also, you referred to invest-able assets. Both Fay and St. Marks have other assets as well and it should be noted that while they are less liquid, St. Marks just cashed out on a major piece of land and both could do so on other parcels.

The lack of property tax obligations encourages these institutions to acquire land as there is little or no cost once acquired.

9 Michael Weishan February 22, 2019 at 11:16 AM

There are three issues here that Ms. Fiore’s petition addresses. The first is the woeful inadequacy of the current pilot payments as compared with payments from similar schools to other communities. (I would also add that lauding tiny payments for a 500K ladder truck that was only required to serve the school dormitories is ludicrous. They should have paid the entire amount themselves.) The second is the number of properties being acquired by these institutions and taken off the tax rolls. I think the voters will be shocked to see just how many private homes have been purchased within the last decade. Finally, most voters aren’t aware that because of the Dover Amendment, these properties are no longer subject to local zoning. Plus, they also have zero historical protection. We have essentially surrendered our entire Main Street to private institutions that we cannot control and that don’t support the town. Yes we are honored to have them here, but honor doesn’t pay the bills or protect historic structures. Cambridge successfully petitioned for an exemption to the Dover Amendment for just these reasons, and so should we. Finally, we should all give a big shout of thanks to Ms. Fiore for deciding to take this to town meeting. (full disclosure: I was an early backer and signer.) It is NOT at all coincidental that after sitting on Mr. Rooney’s excellent 2011 Pilot Report and doing nothing for nearly a decade, the BOS suddenly decides to take up this matter after receiving Ms. Fiore’s petition. As BOS elections are coming up in May, I would urge everyone of you concerned about your pocket book to select a candidate who will actively pursue this matter and achieve material results.

10 beth February 22, 2019 at 1:40 PM

Thank you for clarifying the other aspects of Dover Amendment protection.

11 Carl Guyer February 24, 2019 at 11:22 AM

Although I think the proposed Town Meeting warrant article is a bit heavy handed, I do agree there is a point to be made here. Not all non-profits are the same. Compare the Southborough Food Pantry with Saint Mark’s. Both non-profits but have very different missions. Should a non-profit providing high quality education to the fortunate who can afford this opportunity be responsible for the resources it uses? Surely. The trick is to identify the cost of resources and not get fixated on the idea of their not having to pay taxes as a non-profit. These appear to be mixed in the presentations.

On the other hand, I would like to know if in the calculation of the education costs was this done as a net cost? A net calculation would subtract the cost avoidance of Southborough students attending Saint Mark’s and Fay School from the cost of Southborough’s providing education to students living at the two schools. I don’t know if there are 1, 5 ,10 or how many Southborough residents attend the two schools, but certainly they reduce the cost of running Southborough schools. If the school voucher folks get their way, Southborough would be paying the schools a handsome sum to support their attendance. There is some possibility that if a net calculations is done, Southborough may be experiencing a savings. It is just not clear in the presentations if this was considered.

Lastly, in one of the presentations if is noted that Phillips Academy pays Andover $150,000 each year. You must keep in mind this school has three (3) times the number of students at Saint Mark’s when referencing this fact.

12 Patricia Burns Fiore March 11, 2019 at 4:31 PM

The citizen’s petition clearly states negotiating with non-profits owning real property in excess of $3M. I think we can all agree that leaves out organizations such as the Food Pantry.
Should consideration be given for the number of students from Southborough who attend these private school because it keeps them from our public schools. No. If a family chooses to send their children to a private school, it is just that – a choice – and that family chooses to pay for it. Not all families in Southborough can afford that choice. Arguing that those students attending Southborough private schools save on the school budget is weak because I think if Fay and St. Mark’s were not in our town, those families would still have private school students – just attending elsewhere. We don’t give tax breaks to people who own property but don’t send children to the public schools. The number of students attending private school in Southborough is not a valid consideration here. It is about the cost for the services used.

13 southsider February 25, 2019 at 9:10 AM

I agree that the proposal seems a bit heavy handed. Maybe just itemizing Town spending in a reasonable way on an annual basis kick starts a conversation without the threat of legislation.
Having such a law on our books also sends a clear message to any smaller non-profits to not grow here. Further, to any non-profit considering our Town the “we don’t want you” message seems plain.

And who determines “fair and reasonable”? Will we be in court every year? Shall St. Mark’s begin estimating their contributions to us before the equations get finalized?

I get the concerns but also much appreciate what these non-profits contribute to the town’s character.

Could any of our churches be approaching the $3million threshold?

14 Southboro Resident March 7, 2019 at 9:15 PM


Checked on Religious Organizations/Churches in town.

The following are all over $3m:

Roman Catholic Bishop of Worcester ($5.28m — taking St. Anne ($2.58m) and St. Matthew ($2.7m) together since the same owner in town roll)
L’Abri Fellowship ($3.5m)
St. Mark’s Church ($3.7m + Burnett cemetery ($300k))
Chinese Gospel ($3.3m)

The other two won’t trigger it (yet): Pilgrim ($2.3m) and First Community ($536k)

The schools in question: Fay, NECC & St. Mark’s all have valuations over $30m.

15 Concerned Voter March 8, 2019 at 4:38 PM

Southsider & S.B. Resident,
Like many, I would not be in favor of putting the squeeze on our religious organizations and smaller non-profits. Our churches and religious organizations are vital to the health and well-being of all of us and our community fabric. (Not sure it would be even legal to put the squeeze on them — has anyone checked that out?) Regardless, we need those entities in our community and they add much more than they gain. Just my two cents worth. Thank you

16 Al Hamilton March 11, 2019 at 8:26 AM

There is a difference between the local churches and other institutions and the 3 large institutions you cite. Most of the benefits of the local churches and other institutions accrue to local residents who then bear the public costs of these institutions through property taxes. Most of the benefits conferred to the customers of the 3 large institutions do not accrue to local residents but are in fact spread globally. The public costs imposed by these institutions do fall disproportionately on our community.

There is precedence for taxing these 3 institutions. Their workers pay income taxes, and they pay the employers share of FICA. A solution that matches local costs with local benefits might see these the real property assets taxed (as the rest of us are) but leave in place the State and Federal tax exemptions to reflect the broader benefits conveyed by these institutions. The rate at which these assets are taxed need not be the same as the rate imposed on you or me.

Full Disclosure: I am President of a local 501C3 that manages about 20 A of publicly accessible open space.

17 Patricia Burns Fiore March 11, 2019 at 4:43 PM

The other primary difference between the schools and churches is in the services used. As far as I know, the number of full-time residents of churches is quite small and the churches in Southborough are not expanding by purchasing residential real estate (which comes off the tax rolls) and filling the houses with families, faculty and graduate students who use the services of Southborough.

18 concerned neighbor March 19, 2019 at 11:45 PM

Thanks for this.
Wouldn’t it be better to distinguish between the large educational institutions and the smaller nonprofits based on annual operating budget rather than property value?
The smaller religious organizations may have land but they do not have the budget to handle property taxes!

19 Publius February 25, 2019 at 10:09 AM

Philips academy has three times the students and close to ten times the investable assets. A billions dollars worth! comparing apples to bananas. What we have is two affluent but mostly tuition dependent schools. Are New England private secondary schools at the same risk of going out of business in the next decade as private New England liberal arts colleges? maybe, maybe not. And few are seriously arguing that parishes or the food pantry should pay up ? or are we? should all nonprofits be forced to pay. Perhaps we should do away with the whole notion that nonprofits provide a public good. Tax them all!

20 Al Hamilton February 28, 2019 at 8:52 AM

I am not sure that “Investable Assets” is a particularly relevant consideration.

As anyone who pays property taxes knows, there is no real means test or asset test in the calculation of your tax bill. Just, this is the value of the asset (regardless of how much you might owe or your net assets value) and how much you owe.

Secondly, because there is no tax consequence to owning real estate by these institutions they have a different incentive with respect to owning real property than you or I. In fact there may well be incentive to acquire properties for housing their staff as this could be a tax free way to provide compensation to their staff.

Finally, let us consider for a moment the non educational services that we provide these institutions. About 1/3 of our tax dollars go to pay for services like police, fire, ambulance, roads, elections, open space… etc. There is no reasonable case to be made that these institutions provide effective cost offsets to these services.

Finally, in the recent Golf Course purchase we were required to pay pretty much the fair market price for the parcel. There was no real consideration of a significant “good neighborhood” discount.

Perhaps, an alternative would be a Dormitory Tax. (I hate the idea of new taxes but something needs to be done to reset this inequitable situation)

21 concerned neighbor March 19, 2019 at 11:53 PM

Speaking of apples and oranges, to cite the city of Cambridge as a model for how Southborough should operate doesn’t make sense to me. Cambridge removed the protection of the Dover Amendment in order to get money out of HARVARD UNIVERSITY… an institution which owns half the city and has one of the largest endowments of any educational institution.
Southborough is not Cambridge. St. Marks is not Harvard.

22 Al Hamilton March 20, 2019 at 9:02 AM

Harvard owns 9.56% of the land in Cambridge (not half the city). Fay and St. Marks own just under 5% of Southborough. The comparison between Cambridge and Southborough, adjusted for the relative size of our communities, is in fact, quite appropriate.

23 Mike February 25, 2019 at 8:26 PM

One point not listed here is that there are many local residents that send their children to both of these Schools. They pay both the tuition and the property tax (which a majority of which goes to the local school system). The Town receives the benefit of these taxes without the associated cost of more children to the schools. These local children also need the fire and police services that are provided.

These schools are part of the fabric of our town. They create jobs and bring in families that would otherwise never know of Southborough. They create income and are key stones to our Town. Can you imagine what our town would feel like if they were not there?

24 southsider February 26, 2019 at 10:06 AM

good points, Mike and I can imagine what the town would be like without those schools: all that prime land would be covered with 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath colonials or even more expensive homes…our schools would be overcrowded to the point where a new one would be necessary, our taxes would be even higher since the property tax on a typical home is not enough to cover the Town services provided to each home and our town’s first impression would not be nearly as attractive.

I think we need to be very careful as we consider this citizen petition.

25 huh? March 3, 2019 at 12:30 PM

I would like to know just how many (as in ‘many local residents’) Southborough families send their kids to Fay or St. Marks schools. I’d bet the number is pretty low. Consider that those families are making a choice to select private education. Is anyone forcing them to send their children there? It’s similar to the using the town-provided school buses. Many (and if you’re unsure, try driving to any of the schools at opening/closing times) parents opt to drive their children to the schools – despite the fact their property taxes are already paying for the use of the school buses.

While the private schools in Southborough do offer visual appeal, their paltry PILOT contributions make this town resident ill. Why are my tax dollars used to subsidize these so-called non-profit institutions? If you believe they’re not making money, then look up what it means to be a non-profit.

26 jim March 3, 2019 at 2:10 PM

Dear huh?,

I’m not taking sides in this PILOT debate, but remember that the NFL is a non-profit :)

27 Southboro/St Marks Parent March 3, 2019 at 4:17 PM

Currently there are 43 Southborough residents at St Mark’s. Pretty hefty number taken off the Algonquin school logs. That is not to mention other Southborough students who attend Fay or St. Bernadette’s or Worcester Academy, etc, etc, etc.
I am not sure what you mean by “forcing them to send their children there”? I thought this thread pertained to PILOT payments by SMS and Fay.

28 Al Hamilton March 4, 2019 at 9:03 AM

Leaving aside the question of the net costs of education about 1/3 of our tax dollars go to the provision “Municipal Services” (Roads, Fire, Police, Elections, non school debt, etc). It is safe to assume that the Schools expect the roads to be paved and plowed, and the Fire Dept to answer the call. However, the amount provided in pilot payments by these institutions is a pittance compared to the amount of services they require or when compared to the amount provided by the typical home owner.

I believe that it is safe to that, in most small neighborhoods, more money is provided in the form of property taxes to fund Municipal Services than either School provided in it’s whole Pilot Pittance.

A good neighbor bears his or her share of the burden.

29 Al Hamilton March 4, 2019 at 5:20 PM

I did a little homework:

The Average Single Family home in Southborough pays $10,275 in property taxes. Assuming that 1/3 of that is devoted to non school Municipal Services the each home provides about $3400. In short, 4.4 average homes in Southborough provide more funding for Municipal Services than Fay pays for all services and for St. Marks the number is 8.8.

If you add in School Services, then about 1.5 Average homes pay as much as Fay and 3 pay as much as St. Marks.

Even if you buy the “Invest-able Assets” The average family or even 4.4 or 8.8 families do not have the same level of “Invest-able Assets” as the schools.

This really is a fairness issue that needs to be addressed. It is simply not appropriate for the citizens of this community to subsidize these institutions in such large measures.

30 Old Hockey Guy March 7, 2019 at 11:04 AM

Just a quick question on the 43 Southboro residents that attend SMS, do we know how many of those children have parents that employed by the school.

31 Frank Crowell February 26, 2019 at 7:02 PM

With these comments I have seen the light. Forget two tiered tax policy, Let’s go with zero taxes for business and they just pay what they think is right. Look at all the families they support and the businesses we have keep the town as we want it. As a matter of fact why don’t we start a revese PILOT program where we give the educational non-profits some money. They do so much to hold down the property taxes in town. In fact, forget that, where do I write a check to keep these institutes in the black and right these wrongs?

32 Michael Weishan March 6, 2019 at 2:24 AM

Dear Friends of this Column:

Anytime that Frank Crowell, Al Hamilton and myself—normally diametrically opposed—are in general agreement, the voters of Southborough need to sit up and take notice, because either it is the end of days, or something is seriously awry with current policy. These wealthy educational non-profits need to start giving back to the community, and working with us as equal players in terms of taxes, zoning and town planning. We value their place here. They need to value ours as well, beyond token contributions.

33 Alfred Hamilton March 6, 2019 at 8:09 AM

Pretty sure it is the “End of Days”

34 Publius March 6, 2019 at 12:21 PM

What is the definition of “wealthy”. One definition in the educational world is an institution not dependent on tuition as main source operating funds. As previously stated, neither of the two prestigious schools that call Southborough home, and have the apparent ire of some, are in that category. Clearly no one is suggesting other lesser nonprofits should pay, or are we ? Again society has decided nonprofits provide a public good and should be exempt from tax since these organizations in the aggregate lessen the burdens of government and ergo lessen the burden on taxpayers. As previously posted educating a number of Southborough children. Prestigious educational institutions go one step further and provide as an added bonus, the aforementioned prestigious and even a beautiful campus that enhance the attractiveness of our town. Leave the nonprofits alone.

35 Al Hamilton March 6, 2019 at 2:20 PM

“Again society has decided nonprofits provide a public good and should be exempt from tax since these organizations in the aggregate lessen the burdens of government and ergo lessen the burden on taxpayers.”

What “Society” decides in one time can be changed in another. That is exactly what we are debating and will vote on. That is one way that “Society” decides.

We are in fact reassessing whether the benefits provided by these 2 institutions to this community is sufficiently great to justify the significant tax burden imposed on the rest of us to subsidize their operations.

These institutions right to a tax exemption is not carved in stone tablets and handed down from on high, it was created by the laws of man and can be changed by the laws of man.

36 Publius March 7, 2019 at 9:48 AM

Mr. Hamilton I misunderstood this debate. I thought it was about PILOT. If this is about requesting the Massachusetts Legislature to amend state laws with respect to nonprofit organizations than that is certainly possible but very remote. I have not heard any serious discussion about revoking the tax exempt status of nonprofits in Massachusetts but in this day and age were the ideas of socialism have gained so much traction in the United States and younger people especially, without an awareness or knowledge of the historical failures of socialism seem so agreeable to it anything is possible. In any event, proponents of taxing nonprofits can certainly lobby the legislature. In the meantime count this vote on the side of the nonprofits. We disagree that these two organizations in particular impose a “significant tax burden.”

37 Sigh March 7, 2019 at 2:48 PM

Calling Al Hamilton a socialist is like calling whiskey water. You should read more Al Hamilton.

38 Patricia Burns Fiore March 11, 2019 at 5:55 PM

I believe multi-million dollar non-profit institutions in Southborough should be expected to contribute to the services they, their faculty and students use. The petition is written to include non-profits owning real property in excess of $3M (obviously excluding organizations such as the Food Pantry). It also seeks only “fair and reasonable” contributions. In all that I have read and researched on this subject, PILOT agreements for non-profit private schools and other non-profits (generally “eds and meds”) seek contributions that represent a PERCENTAGE of the fair market value and tax levy. And that percentage is quite low. I can only dream of paying a percentage of the fair market value on my tax levy.
There are a number of issues to consider here. The first, as Mr. Hamilton properly points out, is the private schools do use the services of the town: roads, police, fire, ambulance, even the employees of the Town for all the permits and inspections needed for their continued expansion and updates. They send children on public school buses to N/S public schools, and outside private schools for special needs. They expect roads to be paved and plowed in winter and a ladder truck to answer the call to the multi-story dormitories. The three large private schools in town continue to expand and since there is no real deterrent – no property taxes and the Dover Amendment guarantees rights taxpayers are not privy to – why not continue to buy up residential real estate for tax free housing for faculty and staff? For example, just since 2013, NECC has purchased 12 properties in Fayville alone. Until November 2018, the most recent purchase 12 Winter St. contributed $5,583 in taxes. 2019 contribution will be $0. Multiply that by the number of properties owned, and to be purchased, by three large private schools. Another example, in 2015 St. Marks purchased 55 Main St for $1.3M and turned it into 3-family housing for faculty. The school said to offset the tax loss it would sell another property and “boost the annual donation.” 72 Sears Rd. sold in 2015 for $620,000. According to the information I received from the finance dept., St. Mark’s recent contributions are: 2013 – $25,000; 2014 – $30,000; 2015 – $35,000; 2016 – $35,000; 2017 – $35,000. Where is the offset for that tax money and the cost of services used? We are asking for the private schools to be good citizens of the community in which they are a party and fairly contribute to the cost of running the town and town services and not throw the burden entirely onto those of us who do pay taxes.

39 North-side taxpayer March 11, 2019 at 8:41 PM

They need to pay their fair share and should be ashamed of themselves for the tiny Pilot payments they have given the town over the years. I would be embarrassed to be on the board of one of these esteemed institutions that believe they have been making fair payments to our town.. Do the right thing.

40 Publius March 12, 2019 at 4:51 PM

If we are so concerned about revenue quite frankly Burnett Garfield lot was a perfect opportunity to create some significant tax revenues. Likewise a wonderful sub-division could have been built at the golf course. As stated above, state law is unlikely to change with this regard to non-profits. so any payment would have to be voluntary. That is reality. The people of the Commonwealth recognize the services non-profits provide and that these services lessen the burdens carried by the government. But if some want to lobby the legislature that is an option. Perhaps both schools could offer a scholarship to a Southborough resident in lie of any cash payment. Other communities have found this an eminently reasonable compromise.

41 huh? March 14, 2019 at 12:37 PM

The foolish voters in this town opted to provide $1M to the developer who is converting the Burnett house into some sort of luxury B&B. I’m guessing all it its profits will be turned over to the town (NOT!!!).

As for the services (what might those be? I cannot see any.) the so-called non-profits in Southborough provide, they serve to INCREASE the burdens carried by the (town) government. The town is losing almost $3M ($2.292M) each year by the three institutions’ status.

Hello – Southborough – time to wake up!


42 Concerned Voter March 15, 2019 at 8:45 AM

Dear “huh?” — you mean the misled voters, not so much foolish voters. Who knew at the time that the project proponent, in his later, more recent response to the Fayville RFP response, is self-admittedly worth over $100 million? That’s the bad joke here. The taxpayers were misled by our deal geniuses into giving a person worth over $100 million our tax dollars of $1 million. If I had known what came out later in that Fayville response packet, I never would have voted for this and absolutely felt misled. But here’s the real point: The developer was doing “historic” anyway. And the deal geniuses teed him up with $1 million of taxpayer dollars. In my opinion, this person did not need that money. We subsidized a guy worth over $100m? To do “historic” preservation, when he was doing it anyway? And it’s a luxury B&B?? This is where the taxpayers need to pay attention and hold those responsible ACCOUNTABLE.

What did we get for our money? A project that is not open and is taking longer than the Big Dig. An incongruous front gate (with a crown, no less) with the Burnett house and its history and visual mesh to the neighborhood lost forever. It looks like a crazy Versailles and not the Burnett House anymore. Where is the benefit and tax dollars to the town on that one?

43 Al Hamilton March 13, 2019 at 9:10 AM

Let’s talk for a minute about the size of the subsidy/tax break that is being offered to these institutions by the taxpayers of Southborough. The assessed value of Fay Real Estate is $45,624,000 and St. Marks is $91,342,000. If these institutions were taxed as we are at a rate of $16.74/($1000 of assessed value) their respective tax bills would be $763,745 for Fay and $1,529,065 for St. Marks for a total of $2,292,810. This is one measure of the costs these institutions impose on the rest of us. When you compare these numbers with the pittance on offer by these institutions you get a clear picture of what they think of the rest of us and our community.

Put another way, the value of these real assets is just under 5% (4.94%) of the entire value of real assets in town.

Offering to educate one or two students will not really address the situation. It will not change the costs of our school system by $1.

44 Patricia Burns Fiore March 13, 2019 at 2:24 PM

For sake of argument, let’s add in the other largest non-profit in Southborough – NECC. Current assessed value of NECC real estate is $29,891.200 which brings the total for JUST those three schools to 5.84%of the town’s total value. Now, consider how much they are contributing to the budget that we plan to vote on next Saturday and you and I support with our tax dollars.

45 Southboro Resident March 14, 2019 at 9:31 AM


You say above that obviously organizations like the Food Pantry aren’t included. Given the religious organizations listed above mostly have over $3m in real property, how are they not included in the wording of your petition? I’m trying to understand prior to Annual Meeting, because as I read it all non-profits with $3m assessed value are to be included.

Thank you.

46 Patricia Burns Fiore March 14, 2019 at 5:57 PM

Southboro Resident (el al)
The article cannot be written to “discriminate” and only single out private schools when all non-profits are entitled, by law, to tax-free status. This is a big, important issue that needs to be examined on more levels than just here in Southborough. Multi-million dollar private schools (or non-profit medical facilities, or..) are allowed to expand unchecked, using all public services and expecting tax-paying citizens to cover the entire burden with little or no contribution because the law does not require it. What system of elitism and privilege are they teaching the children in those schools by example? Based on assessed value (and what tax paying citizens of Southborough would pay), Fay School would owe $763,749.10 each year. The school paid $10,000 toward the ladder truck last year. How many people in this town had a tax bill higher than that for their single family house? Something is broken and it should change. And maybe that needs to be on a wider scope than Southborough, but we could be a start. Claiming Home Rule and challenging the Dover Amendment is the only immediate option we may have; and although small, it would mean consequences for non-profits that continue to expand. Cambridge did it. I understand you concern about religious organizations. L’Abri Fellowship has made consistent payments to town, although that is apparently the only one. Please come to town meeting, stay for this petition and perhaps propose an amendment to raise the value to $6.5M. This would not be opposed on our behalf.

47 Concerned Voter March 15, 2019 at 8:26 AM

Ms. Fiore, you may consider amending the petition hopefully to raise that value. Cannot support your petition otherwise.

48 Southboro/St Marks Parent March 15, 2019 at 8:30 AM

Wow Patricia, Stay in your lane… “the culture of elitism and privilege” reference is unnecessary.You are just wrong! Having sent children to both ARHS and SMS I can speak to the culture at both schools.I get it, the Dover Amendment pisses off some residents. This is not the first time Town Meeting has addressed the PILOT payments. Try not to make this about the culture of the school…you obviously have no idea…

49 H. Mann March 26, 2019 at 11:05 AM

Southborough/St. Mark’s Parent,
Why are you deflecting the argument by an ad hominem attack? Whether or not you like the tone of the presentation, the points made in the warrant article are still good ones.

50 another way forward March 19, 2019 at 11:20 PM

It would make more sense to look at the operating budget of these organizations. It would also be a more just and fair way to distinguish the kind of organization and non-profit it is. For example, SOLF may own land valued over $3.5M, but they would have a very different budget than any of the 3 bigs schools being mentioned.

Many of the religious organizations own land that is valued over $3m while at the same time have an operating budget well under a million dollars. To group everyone together in this petition only based on land value doesn’t seem like a sensible move towards any good resolution.

51 Southborough/St. Mark's Parent March 26, 2019 at 3:49 PM

H. Mann,

Reread Ms. Fiore’s comment to which I responded. The “ad hominen attack” was her comment about what they are teaching to their students at St. Marks.

52 Interested March 14, 2019 at 2:12 PM

This has been a very interesting and enlightening conversation to follow. I am a little confused as to why the Food Pantry is part of the conversation though. The Food Pantry does not own property nor does it charge any of the residents who utilize it’s services any fees. All of the people who work at the Food Pantry are volunteers. I think we can safely leave the Food Pantry out of the conversation.

53 Southborough Parent March 15, 2019 at 9:30 AM

I am troubled by the tone and unchecked claims that St. Mark’s and Fay do not contribute to our community other than through PILOT payments and donations for a ladder truck.They make many of our community events possible.

As a town resident and parent, here are several ways that families and other residents in town have benefited from these schools:

1. Fay runs “Saturdays at Fay,” which is free indoor entertainment and engagement programming for young children on dreary Saturday mornings throughout the winter. My children enjoy these events immensely.
1. We attend the Heritage Day Fair annually on St. Mark’s Field.
3. We attend the weekly fall Farmers’ Market at Fay.
4. We live for Santa Day, which is made possible by St. Mark’s allowing the use of St. Mark’s Field for the helicopter landing. Fay students volunteer at the event at the Community House as well.
5. St. Mark’s students offer free tutoring at the Southborough Library.
6. My children have participated in indoor developmental soccer programs run by the Southborough Recreation Department at St. Mark’s athletic facilities.
7. As a family, we participate in free ice skating at St. Mark’s.
8. St. Mark’s allows countless town groups to advertise for free at the corner of Rt. 30 and Rt. 85.
9. Fay regularly hosts free parenting workshops on topics such as literacy, concussions, and child resiliency.

That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure others have other examples of ways that they have personally benefited from these schools.

I appreciate all that Fay and St. Mark’s do to foster and facilitate community engagement for Southborough residents. Characterizing them as “elitist” and as a drain on Southborough is misguided. I will not vote to target them.

54 Matt March 15, 2019 at 10:27 AM

Debating whether they contribute to the community or not seems counter productive. These institutions can both be valued resources AND still be viewed as under contributing financially. What the fair amount is and how to derive that ought to be the goal.

I think the majority of residents reside somewhere in the middle. There’s clear and obvious benefits aside from PILOT that many of these institutions make to the community. But they do not negate the fact that they are incentivized to continue to buy up property without tax ramifications. There is a rationale middle ground that ought to be explored… my reading was that this would start that exploration.

As much as I think it’s great that these institutions often allow use of their facilities I can’t help wonder if the town would have their own available to everyone had a equitable payment system been in place from early on. Which in turn would benefit the institutions and community. We can’t rely on goodwill forever and should be looking at providing some of these resources ourselves.

55 Interested March 17, 2019 at 11:21 AM

I’ve been think a lot about this post. I don’t think that it’s misguided for us, as a town, to be concerned about how many properties in our town are tax exempt. Also, I don’t think we are targeting any one institution for who they are. (I understand that in the light of real terrorist attacks, we might be highly sensitive at this time.) This is about finances, nothing else. If tax exempt institutions keep buying property it could, at some point in time, become an overbearing monetary burden to the residents who live here. That’s a real concern.

All of the events listed above are great, but I don’t think the schools’ incur any additional expenses by extending an invatation to town residents to join in. I do wonder however if the town pays a fee to use St. Mark’s field on Heritage Day and does Kindergroup pay a fee for Santa Day? Does the Rec Dept. rent St. Mark’s athletic facilities or is it free? Does anyone know?

56 beth March 18, 2019 at 7:43 AM

I know that when I was involved with Santa Day the field use was free. I don’t believe they charge for use for any of the Town events they allow to take place there, it just requires permission. I can’t speak to facility rental fees.

57 Al Hamilton March 19, 2019 at 12:18 PM

Lots of people in town provide their services to facilitate “community engagement”. There is never any thought that, because someone makes their home available for a fundraiser for Friends of the Library or coaches soccer or works at the food pantry, they should get some sort of credit in terms of a tax reduction. Why should St. Marks or Fay be treated differently. The tax exemption should be evaluated on it’s own merits.

58 huh? March 22, 2019 at 7:30 AM

Do 1 – 9 above equate to $2.29M worth of ‘goodwill’?

I sincerely think not!

As for Santa Day, the HUGE Woodward School athletic field behind the Community House would surely accommodate a helicopter. The town owns X feet back from the
edges of the pavement at the routes 30 and 85 intersection, so public interest signage posted there may be sitting on public land.

59 n March 16, 2019 at 5:30 PM

How unfortunate it would be if the private schools decided to sell off their undeveloped land to developers.

Hundreds of acres if I remember correctly.

$4 million + we spent to acquire the golf course from St. Marks, million + dollars to keep it functioning as a golf course, and it’s hard to believe we will not put more into it to keep it running despite the assurances that it will support itself – and we have given up the $35,000 annual payment that we had been receiving from St. Marks.

60 Karen Muggeridge March 19, 2019 at 5:18 PM

All three of these non-profit educational institutions are internationally renowned and we should be happy to have them in our town. They add much to Southborough’s desirability and increase our property values. They make the town more attractive and a more attractive location for commercial development. The EDC features them on their website. Has anyone asked the EDC to weigh in on this article?

The non-profit educational institutions offer combined employment of between 700-1500 jobs. They are three of the top five employers in town.
They hire local contractors and service providers.
Employees spend money locally as do family members and to a lesser degree students.
Students receive financial aid and scholarships.
As the St Mark’s parent mentioned, a significant number of local students attend these schools.Yes, there are campus families sending students to the public schools, but I would venture to guess it’s not as many as town residents attending the private schools. ( I realize that was addressed, but it is not to be dismissed.)
Benefits such a field and facility use have already been mentioned.

Other than references to students going to the public schools and lost property tax revenue, what and how are we quantifying the cost for municipal services incurred by the schools?

Properties bought by NECC may be doing the town a favor as those are being used as residences for their students and no students will be using our public school system. If land owned by St Marks and Fay were developed, the impact on the town would be significant.

To say the warrant article can not be written to discriminate against private schools for their tax free status, yet doing exactly that doesn’t seem right. As mentioned by another poster, change MGL and the tax exempt status of non-profits.

The Dover Amendment is a zoning law. It does not bestow ongoing rights to some individuals that others are not privy to. I could be wrong, but I believe the changes to the Dover Amendment in Cambridge thirty-five plus years ago were related to location and not property value. This article states that we would model an article after what is in effect in Cambridge if agreements for “fair and reasonable” payment amounts were not reached. Is the intent of this article to limit the location the non-profit educational institutions may purchase property? Limit the number of properties purchased? Put restrictions on the size? Can this be clarified?

Should there be more PILOT monies made to the town? Perhaps. This is not the way to get that result though and would likely end up with expensive and drawn out lawsuits. I agree with the recommendations to not support by the BoS and Advisory.

61 Ravi Mynampaty March 21, 2019 at 11:54 AM


My reading of the Dover amendment–and I am no expert on MGL–is the same as yours. That is, it is a zoning law.

I would like to get a better understanding of what would happen under the following hypothetical scenario:
“The Town sends this Home Rule Petition to the State Legislature for approval, the legislature approves it, and the Town’s nonprofit entities are removed from protection under (MGL) Chapter 40A, Section 3.”

In the above scenario, once the protection is removed, how would the properties *currently* owned by SMS, Fay, and NECC be affected? Would the schools have to start paying taxes on their currently-owned properties?

Would Ms. Fiore or one of the other sponsors of the warrant article please respond to this question? Thanks

With best wishes,
(current SMS and previous Fay, Southborough schools parent)

62 Publius March 21, 2019 at 4:43 PM

Removing the Dover Amendment part has nothing to do with revenues. It is a heavy handed way to threaten these schools. Pay up or else we are going to remove your form Dover protection. No revenue would be generated and quite frankly maybe PILOT would stop. In any event these two items are not related and are thrown together in a poorly written warrant. AS stated many days ago. If you want to have nonprofits start paying taxes lobby the legislature. Others have tried. There is no appetite amongst the legislature or voters to tax nonprofits. Think about it. You would actually be taking yourself. Give a dollar to a boys or girls club or other nonprofit and have 30 cents taken for taxes. Makes no sense.

63 Ravi Mynampaty March 22, 2019 at 10:29 AM

Publius: thanks for your response. It seems to me too that removing the Dover Amendment part has nothing to do with revenues. However, I would like to hear the opinion of the warrant article sponsors on this specific question.

I request Ms. Fiore and/or one of the other sponsors to please respond to these specific questions:
(1) Do you agree that removing the Dover Amendment will have zero impact on revenues to the Town?
(2) In what ways will the Town benefit if the Dover Amendment is removed?


64 Patricia Burns Fiore March 22, 2019 at 1:43 PM

The Dover Amendment is not related to real estate taxes. It is a MA Revenue statute that offers tax exempt status to nonprofits. The MGL “Dover Amendment” is another benefit of nonprofits owning property. It limits the ability of local zoning to “control or otherwise regulate the use of land for religious and/or educational purposes.” i.e, property is not held to the same zoning restrictions as property I own as a normal taxpayer, such as building height, usage, legal use, parking, lighting, historical preservation, etc. Repealing the Dover Amendment will not change the tax status of the properties, however, it may help curb future expansion by those nonprofits and brings some control over zoning back to the town.

65 Ravi Mynampaty March 22, 2019 at 4:25 PM

Thank you for the information.

I can see that removing the Dover Amendment protection would give some control over zoning back to the town.

However, it is not clear to me how it would help curb further expansion by the nonprofits. As long as they abide by town zoning law they will be free to continue purchasing property, no?


66 Skier112 March 25, 2019 at 10:53 PM

I was surprised to see the graphic showing how many homes have been purchased by these bob-profits. I suggest a table be created showing, by year, how many homes have been purchased and the loss in tax revenue for each year. So we could see the cumulative effect of the lost taxes that would otherwise have been made if individuals owned the homes. For example – if 1 home were purchased for each of the past 7 years, perhaps the lost tax revenue in this year might be $49K.

That would be more persuasive than simply saying they have purchased homes.

67 concerned neighbor March 19, 2019 at 11:20 PM

While I understand the desire of the tax-paying citizens to see non-profits ‘pay their share,’ the implications of the article (particularly the second half about ‘Home Rule’) are very troubling.

As far as I can tell…..
In the event that a PILOT agreement is not reached between each non-profit and the BOS, this article demands that Southborough adopt a ‘home rule’ policy, contrary to Massachusetts State Law, removing the protection of the Dover Amendment from all non-profits in town. The article begins by singling out those organizations with property valuing $3m or more, but ends with the potential of removing tax-exempt status from ‘the Town’s nonprofit entities.’ All of them? Does this include the Friends of the Library or the Youth Soccer Association or SOLF or Chestnut Hill Farm? The article doesn’t specify. If the intent of the article is to try to get more money for the town from Fay and St. Marks, then it should say so. Otherwise it will take a terrible toll on the smaller nonprofits including all of the religious organizations.

The Dover Amendment protects the tax-exempt status of educational institutions, religious organizations and agricultural. To remove this protection for non-profits would, practically speaking, banish most of them from Southborough. Most of the non-profits—even those that own significant land in Southborough—do not have big enough operating budgets to pay taxes on their property, and yet they are doing work that is valuable to the public.

The reason people can afford to start and maintain non-profits is because of the tax exempt status. Do we want to make Southborough a town where non-profits cannot afford to exist?

Check out this link with a list of the non-profits in Southborough.


68 Ravi Mynampaty March 25, 2019 at 6:29 PM


I have no idea how the future might unfold wrt any negotiations with the non-profits.

Note I am not a lawyer but the following is how I interpret the information I have.

The “threat” was neither good nor bad–it was non-existent. Even if the article had passed unamended (with the 2nd paragraph in place) the worst case scenario for the schools was that they would have to conform to Town zoning restrictions.

I bring your attention to Beth’s tweet during Town meeting:
“Planning Chair says the schools don’t seek Dover amendment protection from zoning. They follow standard planning process.”

If the information in the quote is accurate, it means the Town had no leverage even if the article had passed unamended since the schools are already complying with zoning. So the TM outcome is irrelevant to the schools.

With best wishes,

69 Kelly Roney March 26, 2019 at 1:47 PM

Concerned neighbor, you may still have concerns, but they should be based on facts.

The home rule piece of the article was removed by amendment before the article passed. So that’s not a worry yet.

A home rule petition is not a local nullification of state law. If you’ve been out reading about Cambridge, many of the press accounts suggest that it is. Nope. A home rule petition is made by the municipality to the state legislature for the purpose of exemption from the law (as well as other types that aren’t relevant here). The legislature and the governor must approve this exemption, as they must any other law. We don’t get to ignore state law just because we want to.

The article included a lower limit that started out as $3 million but was amended by the hall at request of the proponents to $8 million, explicitly at Town Meeting to avoid affecting the Diocese of Worcester, so it would not pertain to smaller non-profits. So the article does specify, just not directly.

The Dover Amendment does not protect tax-exempt status. It’s a zoning law. Here’s a link to it: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleVII/Chapter40A/Section3

In no way would this article, even unamended, make non-profits impossible in Southborough. It wouldn’t even make life hard. It would just give us an eentsy bit of leverage, related to residential properties that are not part of those non-profits’ core missions, where now we have none.

70 Al Hamilton March 22, 2019 at 9:19 AM

Here is my bottom line on this issue:

When the BOS approaches these institutions to ask for more realistic PILOT payments they go hat in hand. They are not negotiating, they (and by extension we) are begging. In a negotiation, you have something the other party wants and make a deal.

This article gives the BOS something to negotiate with. That is why I recommend support of this article.

71 Ravi Mynampaty March 22, 2019 at 10:44 AM


What is the “something” in this article that BOS can use to negotiate with? Is it the possibility that the Dover Amendment protection might be removed?

With best wishes,

72 Al Hamilton March 22, 2019 at 5:37 PM

The “something” is threat that the town will attempt to remove the benefits that the schools get from the “Dover Amendment” or otherwise go after their tax exemptions.

At a minimum, if the town pursues these options, the schools will be forced to spend much more on lawyers and lobbying than the pittance they provide us.

That something we have now which is simply going hat in hand on bended knee.

73 Ravi Mynampaty March 23, 2019 at 9:32 AM

Al, I don’t see any way the town can go after their tax exemptions.

(a) Removing the Dover Amendment protection (which is a very long shot) will only affect *zoning* of any properties they might purchase in the future. It has no effect on their currently-owned properties, and it will not remove their tax-exempt status.

(b) Legal costs will likely be substantial–for *both* sides. I quote from the following source, “Recognize that litigation under the Dover Amendment is extremely expensive and can lead to real and substantial civil exposure for municipalities and the individuals involved.”

I, with little experience in Law or negotiation strategies, was able to figure that out with some basic internet searches. I’ll bet a more experienced negotiator working for the nonprofits will recognize that this warrant article is a “nothing” and will dismiss it as such.

By all means let’s negotiate with the nonprofits in an effort to get to more equitable PILOT contributions. This warrant article has nothing that can help us in these negotiations.

With best wishes,

74 Jessica Devine March 25, 2019 at 9:35 AM

Hi Al,

Given that the second paragraph of the article was removed (which subsequently removed any mention of the Dover Amendment/Home Rule Petition) and the first paragraph was amended, the article basically simply asks the BOS to engage in discussions with nonprofits in town that have over $8m of real estate to establish “formal agreements through which these entities contribute reasonable annual PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) amounts to cover the Town’s cost of providing services for them, for their staff, and for others associated with their activities in the Town.”

With the second paragraph removed, there is no “work with us or else” threat involved – which is good or bad, depending upon your point of view.

Do you think the BOS will succeed in these negotiations, given there’s no longer any “or else” threat? And if they do, what would compel the three schools in town to contribute reasonable, annual PILOT payments?

I’m curious what you think because you have so much experience with town government. I’d love to hear from others, too (Ravi M., Patricia F., Michael W., etc) – I’m genuinely curious how people think this is going to turn out.


75 Frank Crowell March 25, 2019 at 12:51 PM

Jessica – there will be no changes in PILOT payments from Fay or Saint Mark’s. TM outcome was perfect for them. BOS has no leverage and no gumption to fix the problem.

76 Kelly Roney March 25, 2019 at 1:35 PM

The article as written would not have led to litigation under the Dover Amendment. It would have sought an exception to the Dover Amendment for Southborough, after which no litigation would have had to consider the Dover Amendment.

It’s meaningful to have the expressed wishes of Town Meeting when going into a negotiation, although that’s very limited.

(Note: I’m also not a lawyer.)

77 Patricia Burns Fiore March 25, 2019 at 8:40 PM

Removing the Dover Amendment would have done a couple of things:
First, it would affect zoning of all property owned by nonprofits – not just property purchased in the future. I do not believer anything would be grandfathered.
I believe your quote regarding legal costs is taken out of context. The legal costs discussed in that article regard municipalities opposing requests of nonprofits (based on the Dover Amendment) when they overstretch what the town is comfortable with. As Kelly said, by repealing the DA, Southborough would not be required to approve, or litigate, those requests.
Also, using Cambridge as an example and the way I understand it, once the DA was repealed, Cambridge was able to create overlay zoning within residential areas, thereby prohibiting the further encroachment by nonprofits to purchase residential real estate and take it off the tax rolls. As we stand, they can purchase all the property and homes they chose to – all to the detriment of our tax bills. I hope you saw the maps during our presentation outlining the amount of property owned by just the three large nonprofits (and the substantial amount purchased just since 2011 by NECC).
If there is something better to go to that negotiating table with other than a “please” (because we know how effective that has been for the last four decades), I think we would all be glad to listen to suggestions.

78 Patricia Burns Fiore March 25, 2019 at 9:12 PM

You are correct, without that second paragraph the nonprofits hold all the cards at the negotiating table. And that has not gone so well for Southborough in the past, has it? That was one of the purposes to have it there.
Many people have been talking about our relationship with these schools and what the schools want. I think the schools should also be concerned about their relationship with us and what the taxpayers want.
Will the BOS succeed in these negotiations? hmm. Did you see how many of them voted for the article? BUT, did you also see how the overwhelmingly majority of people voted in favor of the article? Although it was amended, the vote means it is an important issue to Southborough.
So, we need to make sure the BOS continuously knows Town Meeting did vote in favor of this article – the amount of money supplied by the schools is insufficient to cover the cost of services they use; we are concerned about the additional non-taxable property being added by them; and we insist upon a better solution. I’ve already offered my assistance (via email) to each member of the BOS and Advisory and applied to be appointed to the (defunct) PILOT committee. The amount of interest this article has raised is great. I hope the BOS will take it to heart this is an important issue and put it to the top of their agenda.

79 New Resident March 22, 2019 at 11:51 AM

If I am a flourishing non-profit with a reasonable endowment then buying as much real estate as possible is an incredibly smart move. The problem I have is that as a resident I appreciate their existence but am concerned with the removal of so many taxable properties and reliance on goodwill for community space.

I’m not sure this warrant is the answer but it would be good to ensure that we don’t over incentivize these institutions in buy everything available without proportional contribution.

As was mentioned in a previous comment, just threatening to remove tax exempt status may result in a retaliatory selling to less desirable developer. The fact that is even a remote consideration should warrant a hard look at the long term relationship. We may wind up in a scenario where the town is very much beholden to the institution and unable to rework a relationship in the future (may be there now).

Will we ultimately reach a point where we are grateful one of the schools lets the public use the library once a week because we lack funding for our own? It’s hyperbole, but there’s no shortage of thanks for things now that in my mind most towns are able to provide themselves.

80 Ravi Mynampaty March 22, 2019 at 4:16 PM

New resident:

There is no threat to remove tax exempt status as far as I can tell. As Ms. Fiore wrote above, removing the Dover Amendment protection will not change the tax status of the properties. It would only affect zoning (by giving some some control over zoning back to the town).


81 New Resident March 23, 2019 at 8:34 AM

Yes. My bad. I meant threat of Dover removal. Very different.

82 Publius March 22, 2019 at 4:55 PM

Nonprofits exist with a mission. Speculative hoarding of real estate is not part of that mission and would be an extremely unwise us of limited funds could very well lead to the demise of an organization. I am not sure what a “reasonable endowment” is but tuition dependent schools have and will either close with endowments in excess of $100 million. Prudent guidelines suggest no more than 4% of an endowment be spent each year. So for example a school such as Fay with approximately $50 million endowment generates $2 million per year to support its mission and provide financial aid to its students. Hardly a princely sum and clearly not enough to finance a real estate spending spree. If enrollment decreased by a mere 5% serious financial consequences would result. The Dover amendment does not create tax exempt status for non-profits and the fact that some think it does makes one question what else in the warrant is the result of questionable assumptions. Hopefully folks do their homework otherwise it will be a long Saturday.

83 New Resident March 25, 2019 at 10:23 AM

I think the concerning part as someone who knows very little of this issue is that nearly a decade after this article was written: https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20100908/NEWS/309089936

“Selectmen Chairman Bonnie Phaneuf said PILOT Committee members should draft a new formal letter addressed to the town’s tax-exempt institutions.

“At the larger non-profits the board of directors has changed over the years,” she added.”

We have almost exactly the same quote coming from BOS.

“Braccio responded that Rooney’s past report on his effort was very helpful. But she suggested that the climate may have changed since then. She followed that many of the schools’ board members have changed.”

Changing of board members at these institutions is not changing outcomes… so maybe BOS/Town needs to change their methodology?

84 Kelly Roney March 25, 2019 at 1:46 PM

Even though we value St. Marks, Fay, and NECC, we have two problems with them:
– Their service requirements, which we pay for, slightly mitigated by current levels of PILOT, appear on our tax bills because their property holdings are tax exempt.
– They continue to take additional property off the tax rolls and, at the same time, they eat into existing residential neighborhoods, St. Marks and Fay into downtown and NECC into Fayville.

A home rule petition to gain exemption from the Dover Amendment and thus some control over the latter might help with the former, too. But we didn’t pass that provision.

There’s no reason these shouldn’t be negotiated together. The responsible parties are all the same people and institutions. At least, Patti Fiore and Michael Weishan raised the issue. Perhaps that threat is enough to improve negotiations, even though we didn’t make it formally.

85 Al Hamilton March 25, 2019 at 7:08 PM


One thing I have learned is that, for better or worse, nothing happens fast in Southborough.

On the plus side, this item was voted on by town meeting and passed pretty handily. I think this is growing recognition that the status quo is unfair to the taxpayers in town. I suppose that the BOS could now go to the schools and say “We held Town Meeting off this year but if we don’t make some real progress this is going to come up again next year and we might be forced to support Dover repeal or some other action.” That would be a bigger club (twig really) than they have had in the past to negotiate with.

On the minus side, their hand is still very weak and the schools could easily fob them off for another year. I am also not sure that the BOS or Admin have the stomach for this.

This is a start, if progress is not made in the next 8-9 months I would suggest that this or a similar article appear on the warrant next year. It might pass if there is no progress.

86 huh? March 26, 2019 at 9:56 AM

I do not understand the reluctance of the BOS to efficiently move forward with the unambiguously stated wishes of the town residents. Unfortunately, the history of the BOS is one of promoting its own agenda – not necessarily that explicitly shown by the town’s residents. Hopefully, we will not observe that behavior repeated for the PILOT issue(s).

BOS – are you listening?

The citizens (taxpayers) of Southborough have made it clear to you in the town meeting and elsewhere they want the PILOT situation fixed, resulting in a more equitable situation than we’ve had in the past.

Let’s move forward with investigating just what it will take to change to a model provided by Cambridge. That would be a good place to start in parallel with visiting with the three, big so-called non-profits in town. Knowing the town may move forward with changes to the DA agreement (like Cambridge) may provide some added incentive to these businesses.

87 alternatively March 26, 2019 at 9:15 AM

If we can’t tax the non-profits, is there a way to tax those who sell to non-profits? Clearly, some large tax on any property transfer to a non-profit would just get passed along to the buyer, but maybe this is another way to get some of our lost revenue back? And the loss of a residential property to a non-profit does also have some hidden benefit to the town as we likely reduce student populations whenever those properties aren’t purchased to become residences for staff.

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