Most states, including Rhode Island, exempt colleges, churches and other federally designated nonprofits from property taxes. But in recent years, communities—most of them in the college-dense Northeast—have increasingly pressured schools to contribute to the public till. After tense negotiations, Providence last year secured millions in additional voluntary payments from Brown University and other colleges. The majority of Ivy League schools now make similar payments to host communities. […]The legislation allows the town to bill Bryant $250,000 to $350,000 that the town estimates the university uses in police, fire and rescue services annually if the two sides don’t come to an agreement by March.
The law’s supporters claim it is “about fundamental fairness” and is meant to “strike a balanced and fair relationship,” but it’s pretty clear what’s really driving this push for revenue. As pension crises and health care inflation worsen and these states struggle to find the cash to pay for exorbitant costs, local governments are turning to educational, religious, and charitable organizations, whose tax-exempt status suddenly doesn’t seem “fair.”[Image of Bryant University courtesy of Shutterstock]