I was a lot more sympathetic to the universities before they started opening their mouths:
Today, the university and surrounding community enjoy a harmonious relationship, even when considering the occasional complaint about noisy students. This is in large measure because we have changed the conversation and opted to collaborate. Instead of the town viewing the university as a cash cow to offset budget deficits and the university invoking its nonprofit status, RWU and Bristol’s Town Council leaders adopted a collaborative approach designed to provide resources in a strategic manner while reaffirming the university’s tax-exempt status. (P-G, Dr. Roy Nirschel)
I’m sorry, I’m having trouble seeing — the condescension in the room is so thick and painful to the eyes.
This is where I lost my lunch:
Fresh from that election we revisited the issue of a payment to the town in lieu of taxes. Instead of a head tax or monies allocated for the town’s general fund, the university and town developed a memorandum of understanding that went far beyond balancing the books for that year.
The town and university identified key needs in the community, such as support for an emergency vehicle, which benefited all citizens. (ibid)
Why do non-profits think it’s appropriate to pick and choose which government expenditures seem useful enough to them? Is democracy not a good enough system anymore?
I don’t know about Bristol, Rhode Island, but Pittsburgh contractually owes a gazillion dollars to its pensioners, a stampillion dollars in bonded debt, and another bazookillion dollars under a consent decree for its water infrastructure. Meeting these overwhelming obligations is very much “a key need in the community” which “benefits all citizens”, because it’s swamping the needs of everything else and we will drown — drown! — unless our major economic engines chip in significantly.
Oh and by the way — Dunkin Donuts also employs a lot of people, and provides needed pastries and coffee to a community that has trouble rousing itself the morning and attaining alertness. Yet I’ve never heard them ask to be treated special. That’s the thing about a community — good guys need to chip in financially, too.
The universities really would be better off letting their students do the talking for them and keeping their own mouths shut.
So here’s what I’m saying today. I’m no fan of using the Student Tax to get at the university scene through a back door — but I’m even less of a fan of Rep. Paul Costa’s bill to rip that option off the table. (x-CORRECTED)
We are a City, and a Home Rule Charter city at that, and we have certain legal rights, including the right to tax privileges. That law has meaning and I would not make it obsolete. If our City representatives enact a Student Tax, the remedy for that is political, i.e., we’ll take care of it ourselves. We don’t need the state sticking its beak in, hopped up on campaign donations by universities and other non-profits, to weaken City autonomy. Who knows, after we truly exhaust other options, we may all agree we need that Student Tax somewhere down the road.
Secondly, we should be pursuing Councilman Burgess’s raft of zoning and appraisal legislation which has the aim of compelling serious PILOTs to the general fund — the general fund — like its our job. Let’s see a press conference with the Mayor, all nine Council members, the Controller, every one of our Judges and Magistrates, and Steely McBeam this time.