Updated: While the Senate declined to adopt the property tax proposal, the six member conference committee of House and Senate Members need to hammer out the differences and you still have an opportunity to weigh in. Locally, our own Senator Vinny de Macedo is on the committee. Find the other conferees and bill history here.  

Should non-profits pay property taxes? At least one state lawmaker thinks so. According to the Lowell Sun, Rep. David Nangle inserted language into an economic development bill moving through the the Legislature in the waning days of the 2015-2016 session. Whether state leaders buy into the idea remains to be seen and, as with most issues, depends heavily on the hew and cry (or silence) Senators hear from non-profit leaders in their district.

This idea, packaged in either the form of PILOT – Payment In Lieu Of Taxes – or graduated property taxes, has been kicking around Beacon Hill for years and each time gains a bit more traction. Lawmakers facing giant non-profit universities (UMass Lowell in the case of Nangle’s district) eating up scarce land in their communities understandably feel the need to do something to help municipalities off-set the loss in revenues they’d receive if a private business or individual owned the property.

Rarely do these efforts make the distinction between a non-profit hospital or college with a $36 billion endowment (Harvard in 2016) and a $300,000 children’s advocacy center with 4 staff people.

So what’s a non-profit leader to do? If you have 4 – or even 40 – people on staff, it’s tough to focus on what’s happening in the Legislature, build relationships with lawmakers, and know how to move through the system.

If you’re concerned about this particular bill, here are some easy steps:

  • First, do some back of the napkin math on how much your organization would have to pay over the course of the four years the language calls for. Compare that with your annual P&L. What services or jobs would you have to cut? Would you have to make the choice between buying a building or continue renting? These are your talking points.
  • Then, call your State Senator’s office. You can find who represents your town here.
  • Speak to a legislative aide. Tell them you’re concerned about H.4461, which contains an amendment that would impact your nonprofit. Tell them how, using your talking points. Ask them to talk to the Senator about it and get back to you.
  • If you find the Senator is in support of it or on the fence, start calling your non-profit’s supporters. Ask them to (nicely) call the Senator as well.
  • Finally, consider taking an advocacy training offered by yours truly – because being able to successfully advocate for, or in this case, against, an issue is truly an investment in your non-profit’s health.
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