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Nonprofits asked to pay taxes through PILOT agreements

Date: 1/11/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE — The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) is the latest nonprofit entity in the city of Holyoke to be asked to commit to a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) and, according to Mayor Alex Morse, the MGHPCC won't be the last.

Morse explained to Reminder Publications that city officials have already established a number of PILOT agreements with Holyoke Gas & Electric, ISO New England, Holyoke Geriatric Authority and the Holyoke Medical Center, among others, and will be approaching other nonprofits to establish a payment arrangement.

Morse said the city would also be looking at properties owned by churches. If the property is not being used for a religious purpose, it will be taxed, he said.

PILOT programs are not unique to Holyoke, Morse noted, citing Providence, R.I., as an example with its large nonprofit higher education community.

Holyoke must seek "innovative ways to expand revenue," he said.

The goal, Morse added, would be for the institution to pay 25 percent of what it would pay in property taxes.

Morse sent a letter to John Goodhue, executive director of the MGHPCC, on Jan. 2 seeking to begin a discussion on establishing a PILOT. In his letter, Morse wrote the estimated annual tax value of real estate and personal property tax for the MGHPCC is $171.33 million. If the MGHPCC were a for-profit business, it would have a tax bill of $6.8 million.

Morse proposed a schedule from this year through 2021 that would ease in a calendar of payments beginning with $500,000 and end with a final annual amount of $1.5 million.

Morse wrote to Goodhue, "As you know, Holyoke is in the midst of a transformation as a 21st Century city: fostering an innovation-based economy and a healthy business environments, providing opportunity for jobs for all Holyokers, revitalizing our Center City, creating a safe environment and providing first-rate education for the next generation. While the excitement and momentum that comes with this transformation is widely felt throughout our city, it is important we also forge the necessary partnerships and take the necessary steps which will see this vision completed. In that vein, it is my hope that you share our desire in demonstrating that tax-exempt organizations, such as yours, are interested in being part of Holyoke's transformation."