Why Two Small Nonprofits are Paying into Philly’s PILOTs ProgramBy Andy Sharpe |
If you’re a public policy wonk in the Philadelphia-area, you’re probably aware that much a deal has been made about the participation of large nonproﬁt institutions in Philly’s Payments and Services in Lieu of Taxes (P/SILOTs) program. PILOTs and SILOTs enable nonproﬁts incorporated in the city to save money by making payments or rendering services instead of shelling out for property taxes. However, the Achilles heel of PILOTs and SILOTs is that payments are services are wholly voluntary.
Speciﬁcally, you probably know that local universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and Temple University have made few if any payments or services in lieu of them. The same can be said for some nonproﬁt health networks, including the Temple University Health System. We reached out to Drexel and Penn and received no comment, however one might imagine that the amount in unreimbursed health care costs and scholarships can be considered as their efforts to pay back.
Needless to say, as a result, the city’s PILOTs program only brought in a smidgen over $383,650 last year. If all participating institutions paid property taxes instead, the city’s beleaguered school district would have a lot more money, not to mention so too would the city itself.
With these numbers in mind, there are a few local nonproﬁt institutions that were gladly willing to make payments or services instead of paying property taxes. We will proﬁle two such nonproﬁts. Ironically, these nonproﬁts are not nearly as large as the institutions mentioned above. One nonproﬁt is the Cathedral Village Continuing Care Retirement Community in the Andorra section of Northwest Philadelphia. The other nonproﬁt is the Friends Center, which manages the Center City building home to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
Cathedral Village is by far the biggest contributor to PILOTs
Cathedral Village, which is a sprawling 40-acre retirement community on the tip of Northwest Philadelphia in Andorra, generously gave about two-thirds of the total PILOTs payments at $272,250. According to Cathy Ng, the executive vice president at Cathedral, the nonproﬁt consistently paid around $275,000 every year in PILOTs. City records bear this out. Ng adds that Cathedral Village’s Board will be meeting to discuss these payments, but that they will likely decide to continue to carry out the payments.
Ng, who has been in her position at Cathedral Village since 1991, believes it’s her nonproﬁt’s civic duty to make the payments instead of taxes. “We realize the city does provide a lot of conveniences and services to its residents,” remarks Ng. She cites trash, ﬁre ﬁghting, and police as being Andorra’s most vital services. Ng says this in spite of the fact that the Village has its own security force, which means the Philadelphia Police Department doesn’t have to worry about routine patrols of the community.
The Friends Center in Center City is also committed to paying PILOTs
The Friends Center, the owner of the LEED platinum-certiﬁed building of the same name that houses the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC’s) local chapter, is another nonproﬁt that is a paying member of PILOTs. The Friends Center has contributed $10,000 for the past ﬁve years to PILOTs, according to its media director, Alexis Moore. Moore is enthusiastic about the beneﬁts of PILOTs. “PILOTs allow nonproﬁts, who can, to contribute dollars in support of city services as we are able [...] but at a more sustainable, less burdensome rate,” she says.
Moore continues to praise PILOTs as a program that enables nonproﬁts to better focus ﬁnite resources on their missions. While Philadelphia is among a handful of cities that enable nonproﬁts to submit payments on their own time rather than pay taxes, Moore says that most other AFSC chapters don’t participate in any similar program. “Many of our other ofﬁces rent ofﬁce space, and that usually means they are not able to participate in programs such as PILOT.”
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