One Small City Will Press Homeless Shelter for Payments in Lieu of Taxes

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June 14, 2014; Boston Globe

As the city of Brockton, south of Boston, prepares to press 21 local nonprofits for payments in lieu of taxes, the picture is very different from what it is in Boston proper, where the larger nonprofits are hospitals and universities and the like. One fifth of Brockton’s property is tax-exempt, according to the city finance director, John Condon; out of $5.4 billion in total property value, about $1.01 billion is tax-exempt.

Mayor Bill Carpenter’s efforts are focused on groups that own $500,000 or more in real property and the plan would have nonprofits contribute 10 percent of what they would be assessed in taxes if they were not exempt the first year, 20 percent the second year, and 30 percent from then on.

But in Brockton, instead of a well-endowed university being the target, we see Father Bill’s & MainSpring (a homeless shelter and housing advocacy group), Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital, High Point Treatment Centers Inc., and the Old Colony YMCA.

There is no doubt that these organizations use public services. For instance, last year the Brockton Fire Department answered 294 calls from the Father Bill’s & MainSpring shelter. The calls are estimated to cost $1,000 each.

John Yazwinski, the executive director of Father Bill’s, said the agency shelters 255 people a night, and that it has been 14 years since the state has raised the reimbursement rates. The group already does pay $10,000 a year in lieu of taxes on the more permanent housing they manage.

“Eighty-seven cents of every dollar goes right to the people we assist,” Yazwinski said. “We feel we are helping the community.”—Ruth McCambridge