Easthampton exploring PILOT program

  • New faculty and dormitory residences at Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, in August 2018. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/23/2020 8:44:52 AM

EASTHAMPTON — The city may ask owners of tax-exempt property, such as Williston Northampton School, to voluntarily pitch in with some money under a plan being considered by the City Council.

The resolution proposed by councilor William Lynch IV at the council’s Wednesday meeting outlines how a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, program would work.

Under Lynch’s plan, the mayor would negotiate with the owners of tax-exempt properties in the city and ask that they pay a portion of the money they would pay in property taxes to the city if the properties weren’t tax exempt, up to 25% of that amount. The only exemption in the current program is for government-owned properties.

“I’ve been working on it pretty much since our taxes went up,” said Lynch, referring to increases associated with paying for construction of a new school and a widespread increase in property assessments that many residents saw this winter.

In a letter to the council, Lynch said that the PILOT money would cover the costs of providing municipal services to those properties. He acknowledged that participation in the program would be voluntary and not subject to city ordinance.

“There’s really nothing we can do to make them pay,” he said.

Also in his letter, Lynch said that there is $110,279,400 in qualifying property for the PILOT in Easthampton, and at a $17.76 per $1,000 property tax rate that would generate $489,640.54 a year if all properties paid the maximum amount into the program.

Williston Northampton, with property valued at $48,128,800, is the city’s largest tax-exempt property owner. The private school would pay some $213,692, if it agreed to participate at the 25% level.

The program was unanimously referred to the council’s Rules Committee at Wednesday’s meeting.

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle told the Gazette that she is neutral on the program, but will do the necessary outreach if the council approves it. 

“A lot of other cities have this program,” LaChapelle said.

In the resolution, it’s noted that Northampton, Springfield and Boston all have PILOT programs.

City Council President Peg Conniff said that she is enthusiastic about the PILOT conversation and would like to hear from the impacted parties.

“It’s an interesting concept and it’s an interesting conversation,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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