Sunday February 24, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- A group studying whether nonprofit organizations could make donations to the city will focus on gathering information from the nonprofits themselves, on their nonfinancial contributions to Pittsfield and on definitions of the various charitable entities.

City Councilor at large Melissa Mazzeo, a member of the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) Study Group, said the next meeting will feature a Powerpoint presentation on local nonprofits and their impacts.

She said Michael Supranowicz, president of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, will present information on the economic impact of nonprofits at the group’s 1 p.m. meeting Monday at chamber offices, 66 Allen St.

According to the study prepared for the chamber by Williams College economics professor Stephen C. Sheppard, the total economic impact of nonprofits is $2.2 billion within the county’s overall $5.2 billion economy.

Sheppard’s Center for Community Development issued an initial report in 2009, based on economic figures over a 10-year period and updated the report in 2012 to include recent data.

The local nonprofit sector directly or indirectly supports more than 24,000 full- and part-time county jobs, the report states.

Mazzeo and Ward 6 Councilor John Krol requested a study of nonprofits in Pittsfield to determine whether, like Boston and other communities, the city could develop a formal program of seeking donations from organizations that are exempt from property taxes.

Boston performed a study that identified nonprofits in the city and now formally requests voluntary payments based on real estate holdings and other factors, such as in-kind benefits or services to the city or residents.

In Pittsfield, it was learned that real estate holdings make up a much smaller percentage of total holdings than in Boston, Mazzeo said.

However, she said she would like to see a comprehensive picture of those services nonprofits provide -- such as medical or educational -- versus the city services they benefit from, and also whether some organizations are able to donate to municipal government while others lack that capacity.

She said she has heard from groups that believe they could not contribute and from residents "stretched to the max trying to pay property taxes" who wonder if nonprofits could help out.

Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi created the study group in January in response to the councilors’ petition. It includes city Director of Finance Susan Carmel, Shaun P. McHugh, of the assessor’s office; Supranowitz, Darlene Rodowicz, chief financial officer of Berkshire Health Systems, the county’s largest employer; other representatives from nonprofits and two retired businessmen.

To reach Jim Therrien:
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On Twitter: @BE_therrien