Concord-Area Nonprofits Balk at Making Voluntary Payments

Officials in Concord, Massachusetts, have made little progress in convincing local nonprofits to make voluntary cash contributions to help the town balance its budget, the Boston Globe reports.

Last year, the town sent letters to thirty-four nonprofit organizations asking them to step up and make annual payments in lieu of paying property taxes. Only three groups responded: the Concord Art Association, which sent in $1,000, and two independent municipal operations, the Concord Housing Authority and the Concord Municipal Light Plant, which chipped in with payments of $17,690 and $355,000, respectively.

Subsequently, various town selectmen made direct appeals to the groups. Of the groups that responded, most said no, arguing that their organizations contribute to the town in other ways. For example, Emerson Hospital said it had no plans to contribute to town coffers but that it would continue to provide free-of-charge emergency medicine and disaster planning asssitance, preventive care, and programs for seniors and youth. While the town appreciates those types of in-kind donations, Concord board of selectmen chair Jeffrey Wieand told the Globe, they do not do not help the town balance its budget.

The value of tax-exempt property in Concord is estimated to be about $935 million and costs the town roughly $12.2 million in forgone revenue annually. And while most of the tax-exempt properties are valued at less than $3 million, more valuable parcels and properties owned by a small group of institutions — including Harvard University, Emerson Hospital, and the Concord Land Conservation Trust — are valued at between $26 million and $88 million.

"Asking people to pay money is never easy, and they never rush to do it," said Wieand. "But we are trying to get the nonprofits to make a regular payment that we could count on and budget for."

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts. "Few Heed Call for Voluntary Payments." Boston Globe 02/24/2011.