Posted on December 9, 2008
Today’s question was about PILOTS — Payments In Lieu Of Taxes, the payments that non-profits like universities and hospitals often make to towns for services, though they are not legally required to pay taxes. Many towns see the large non-profits as sources of new revenues and push for new and/or increased PILOTS. An article in today’s Boston Globe described Boston’s plan to seek increased payments from the city’s universities. The question posed to me is whether I worred that Hooksett and Manchester might try to do the same with SNHU.
I can’t speak to their plans or intentions, but we will strenuously resist any such attempts. I am a strong opponent of PILOTS for two reasons. First, I think they are essentially an end-around on the law and subvert the spirit and intent of not-for-profit status. Second, we not only provide a great deal of “public good” (the rationale for not taxing places like universities and hospitals and churches), but much of it is not acknowledged.
For example, consider Hooksett (where most of our campus sits).
We paid almost $500,000 in taxes and fees last year. However, we also did business with 225 vendors in town. We have 63 employees living in town with an average salary of $53,000 and they are all paying real estate taxes. Hundreds of employees and 1564 residential students do business in Hooksett. Almost 450 alumni live in town and 90 students lived there last year.
One rule of thumb is that for every non-local student we enroll for four years the area will see 40 “visit days” by family and friends. That means 40 days of spending at local restaurants, stores, and hotels. The aggregate economic impact is enormous.
We also host a wide range of town organizations including Little League, Soccer, Lacrosse, Kiwanis, and many more. We’ve lent our expertise to town planning and we work with Hooksett schools. We are also the primary Red Cross shelter site in case of a disaster, such as the floods of two years ago.
Ongoing capital investments and new building projects mean jobs for local workmen of all kinds. One facet of Obama’s proposed stimulus package is to support campus building and renovations as a method of job creation. If SNHU receives such funds we can provide yet more opportunties for local contractors and tradespeople.
In return for all that direct payment, economic impact, and services, we actually make very few demands of the town. Some police help and fire response from time to time. Connecting to town sewer and water.
When I shared this overview with town officials (and we have a very good relationship with town officials, by the way), a number of them reported they had no idea of the breadth and substance of SNHU’s impact on Hooksett. My hope is that such recognition impels our host communities to do the right thing should the question of increased PILOTS be considered.