May 6, 2010; Source: The Republican | Springfield, Mass. has long been one of the most fiscally troubled small cities in the nation, ranking up there with Camden, N.J., Bridgeport, Conn., Flint, Mich., and Chelsea, Mass. in their fiscal troubles. Apparently still in control of its own finances for the moment, Springfield is trying to balance its usually out of balance municipal budget.

How? The Council president asked the Mayor to consider pursuing voluntary payments from “mega nonprofits.” Back in 2005, when Springfield’s finances were dictated by a state-appointed Finance Control Board, some PILOTs were negotiated with nonprofit property owners. The Baystate Health hospitals agreed to fork over a $500,000 payment the first year with 2.5 percent increases each year after that. That agreement, however, expires next month and has no automatic renewal provision.

What is a “mega nonprofit”? In Springfield, besides the hospital, there are colleges such as American International College, Springfield College, and Western New England College—none should necessarily be considered “mega” however.

This has all the markings of another mid-sized city whose economy is in the pits looking to eke out a few extra dollars from nonprofits that might look big to municipal leaders who may well be only a few revenue ticks away from state oversight. Given the state of the city’s fiscal predicament, what other nonprofits might the council and mayor decide to wedge into the category of “mega”?—Rick Cohen