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.
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.