I Bet Harry Jones Read This Article With Interest

According to an article in The New York Times today, some municipalities are trying to figure out ways to "tax" nonprofits who occupy valuable, expensive land. They’re not using the word "tax," of course, but some form of the term "voluntary payments":

"There is no question that nonprofit universities and hospitals — eds and meds, as they are known to planners — have played a central role in helping cities weather the Great Recession and its aftermath. They provide high-paying jobs, draw visitors and keep downtowns vibrant. But for cities that rely heavily on property taxes, those benefits have a cost. As nonprofits grow in size and importance in many cities, manufacturing has disappeared and development has moved to the suburbs, leaving much of the best land in some cities off the tax rolls."

Imagine the revenues that could be raised if, for example, CPCC or Carolinas HealthCare paid a version of a tax on the land it occupies in and around the center city. Might be enough to hire a teacher or two. And given the recent rancorous exchanges between County Manager Harry Jones and CHS chief Michael Tarwater over CHS’s bid to build a mental-health hospital, one would think that Jones might relish the opportunity to collect some cash out of the hospital system.

But, of course, there’s a rub. From the Times article:

"The question of the payments has become a new wrinkle in the often-contentious relationship between town and gown.

Princeton University, for example, pays $1.2 million voluntarily to the Borough of Princeton, and $500,000 to the township. But when the university met resistance from local officials this year to some zoning changes it is seeking to build a new $300 million arts complex — especially to its proposal to move a train station a little farther from downtown — university officials said that they might rethink those voluntary payments.

“It would be difficult to justify continuing contributions at existing levels to local officials who not only refuse to help the university achieve a key educational objective, but in some cases have sought to prevent the project from going forward,” Robert K. Durkee, the university’s vice president and secretary, said in an e-mail, adding that the university already pays taxes on some properties that could qualify for exemptions, including housing for graduate students."

Now that would make for some good copy.

Categories: The Buzz, Trade & Tryon, Trade & Tryon > Politics