To the editor:
The Town of Newbury has requested to hold a Special Town Meeting to vote on a $293,000 tax override proposal. I believe it’s time for some of our local tax-exempt organizations to step up to the plate. This is a tough economy for businesses and citizens alike, but some businesses are more protected from the day-to-day economic woes of this country than others.
The Governor’s Academy is a private, nonprofit organization, which is exempt from paying any town property taxes.
Many in town don’t realize the financial burden that The Governor’s Academy places on the town of Newbury.
Our schools are funded, at the local level, by property taxes paid to the town. Obviously, if you own a home in town, you are paying real estate taxes; if you rent in town, the landlord is paying real estate taxes on that property.
Staff members who reside at The Governor’s Academy and have children often send those children to the local elementary school, as they won’t attend the academy until they are of high school age. In FY 2012 our local schools had 14 such students. The per-pupil cost in FY 2012 was $12,399. This creates an unfunded burden of $173,586.00 on the town of Newbury. Middle Road, which runs through the schools grounds, is maintained by the town of Newbury. In FY2012 the Newbury police and fire each made 54 calls to the school.
To the academy’s credit, they have made donations to the town in the past via purchasing a cruiser or dump truck, etc. To my knowledge, the dollars spent on these items does not approach the burden to the town in any given year.
Cities such as Boston and Cambridge have this same issue with many tax-exempt universities and hospitals. They created a program where these exempt organizations have agreed it’s in their best interest to make voluntary payments to the town in lieu of taxes via PILOT programs.
Many of Governor’s students come from different parts of the country and around the world. The parents of these students are intrusting the academy with the safety of their child. I would hope it’s in the best interest of the academy to be able to reassure these parents that their children are safe 24/7 and that the campus is not situated in a town with diminished emergency services. With the current holes in the local fire and police budgets, the academy may no longer be able to make this promise.
The academy is a philanthropic organization with a large endowment behind it. Hopefully they will see, as they have in the past, that the town of Newbury is in need of their assistance now more than ever.