PITTSFIELD - A task force has dropped from consideration a system to collect payments in lieu of taxes from tax-exempt groups that operate in the city.
Meeting with Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, who appointed the committee members last year after a request for a study from the City Council, the group cited a number of reasons such a program " wouldn't work in Pittsfield."
In Boston, which has a PILOT program in place, "close to 50 percent" of real estate is controlled by nonprofit, tax- exempt entities, group member Michael Supranowitz said. In Pittsfield, he said, the figure is "closer to 17 percent."
In addition, Supranowitz, president of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, and other study group members said the nonprofits that own the most property here tend to be least able to afford payments to the city. Developing a method of payment not related to property owned would be too complex to administer and likely unfair to many, group members have said.
In Boston, a study led to the identification of all nonprofits in the city owning property and to a formula for requesting annual payments in lieu of taxes.
As with the Boston program, the payments would have been voluntary, but that city has a formal program that establishes annual contribution levels. The basic rationale for municipal governments adopting PILOT programs is that cities provide services that benefit the nonprof-its, which sometimes control a high percentage of real estate. While recommending against creating a formal program in Pittsfield, the group is expected to suggest some informal policy in which the mayor would contact nonprofit groups and suggest a dialogue about whether and how they might contribute to the city - such as with direct payments, services to residents or expertise.
Some board members opposed sending an outreach letter to all 150-plus organizations the study identified, saying only those deemed in a position to contribute to the city should be approached.
A report to the mayor and councilors will be drafted by group members, summarizing the findings. Bianchi said he expects to submit it to the council next month.
Thanking the committee, Bianchi said, "This has been a very good exercise. I really appreciate your involvement."
City Councilor at large Melissa Mazzeo, a group member, said the idea also emerged of providing space on the city's website for information about nonprofits and the services they provide. Bianchi suggested providing links to the websites of the organizations.
Darlene Rodowicz, chief financial officer of Berkshire Health Systems, said any approach to the nonprofits should be in the form of creating partnerships or collaborations with the city. All contributions, she and Supranowitz said, likely would have to be for a specific time period, as revenues and budget situations in most cases prevent a multi-year commitment.
Ward 6 Councilor John Krol, who with Mazzeo first proposed a study of PILOTs, said Thursday, "I respect all the time and energy the committee put into this."
The group apparently will leave it up to the mayor to contact local organizations on the subject of contributions, Krol said, which he called appropriate.