CITY OF PITTSFIELD NEEDS TOP-TO-BOTTOM REVIEW OF ALL WHO CLAIM LUCRATIVE ‘NOT FOR PROFIT’ STATUS … BCC TEST CENTER DATA SHOWS PITTSFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS FAILING ON THE JOB … plus … HOW THE BORING BROADSHEET SOILED THE SHEETS ON SUNDAY
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI NEWS AND COMMENTARY
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, DEC. 13, 2011) — Pittsfield can learn from the experience of Boston when it comes to not-for-profit organizations. Non-profits reap huge tax benefits denied to the rest of us. What they don’t contribute to the “fair share” has to be made up by someone. Do you know who that someone is? Here’s a hint: Got a mirror?
Is each and every granting of non-profit status in the city of Pittsfield justified? If the answer is yes, then what are the criteria? If a strong case can be made for non-profit status, no one should object to a top-to-bottom review. If not, though, the taxpayers should know about it, because every property returned to the tax rolls eases the heavy burden shared among a shrinking number of participants who comprise the city’s tax base. This include residents and businesses.
Moreover, who has asked these questions of late — save THE PLANET? Why has there been so much grumbling by the Status Quo to an review of the not-for-profit status of every organization with this coveted status. Being declared “not-for-profit” for the purposes of taxation is the next best thing to having a printing press to churn out money.
Hubbub in the Hub Over ‘Non-Profit’ Organizations Shirking their Tax Resposibilities
The city of Boston established — yes, the city, not the state — established its not-for-profit structure through its assessment department? Is this how Pittsfield handles it? We do not know. It appears, though, from the experience of other municipalities such as the Hub and Pittsburgh, Pa., that the city determines taxation status, either exclusively or in tandem with the state.
This would refute the argument made for why Pittsfield is allegedly helpless to readjust the status of its non-profits. THE PLANET sense a lot of fear even at the mention of this possibility, and fear is the one quality that keeps the politicians, so-called public servants, and places like the Boring Broadsheet in line, like meek little lambs. THE PLANET is having none of it.
In Boston, city officials designed its not-for-profit program based on a formula. The formula includes factors such as the amount of property owned by the applying agency, the assessed value, its use, proposed construction costs, or — if the buildings are pre-existingt — the market valuation and maintenance/upkeep costs. The huge “however” in Boston, though, is that the city never put the program into practice (uoiu.com).
We stop right here for two questions pertaining to the city of Pittsfield:
* What is the formula used by the city (with or without the state) to determine the legitimacy of not-for-profit status?
* Has the formula been enacted?
When the Not-for-Profit Inmates Run the Taxation Assignment
Today, Boston’s payment-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) program is not the product of design, since the rules were ignored, but one of evolution. Darwin notwithstanding, it’s hard to see how random selection works best when it comes to the equitable management of We The People’s tax dollars. As a result, not-for-profit groups and not the city decide how much, if anything, to “volunteer” as contributions for their coveted tax-exempt status.
Has this happened in Pittsfield? Are the not-for-profits themselves deciding how much to contribute in lieu of tax payments? THE PLANET thinks this is the case, especially with Berkshire Health Systems, and we shall follow the evidence that leads to this conclusion, which shall stand unless and until it is proven otherwise. Of course, BHS has refuse to provide a number to the dollars is “voluntarily donates” to the city tax rolls in lieu of taxation.
Again, we ask:
* What is the dollar amount BHS gives the city each year in lieu of tax payments?
* How is this number determined? By formula? By throwing a dart at a tote board?
* Does BHS or the city of Pittsfield decide what that amount should be?
These are simple, straightforward questions. The longer they go unanswered, the more doubt and suspicion that there’s something They Don’t Want Us To Know.
It’s unanswered questions like this, more than anything, that DEMAND review of the status of EVERY not-for-profit operating within the city. This is a time for honesty, courage, and integrity. It is not a time for politics as usual, timidness, or fear of the GOBs and Vested Interests.
Council and mayor-elect: TAKE NOTE.
Millions of Tax Dollars Fritted Away Each Year in Pittsfield Because of the ‘Not-for-Profit’ Tax Dodge
The city loses millions of dollars each year because certain groups get off scott-free when it comes to taxes. The new economics of today have rendered that situation unacceptable. The city must review the situation on a case-by-case basis and make new determinations, forward them along to Beacon Hill via our representatives, and insist on follow through. If, as we suspect, the city has more of an active role in determining not-for-profit status and contributions, then it must take action. There is no longer any acceptable excuse for this long overdue reform NOT to be enacted.
In January, owing to the city’s frustration of being ripped off by organizations that were “not for profit” in name only, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino created a PILOT task force. The group has called for the city to ask all non-profit organization for financial support in lieu of taxes equal to 25% of what they would owe if they paid taxes to the city. THE PLANET recommends this formula for Pittsfield, except we recommend 35% contribution. Every group that has non-profit status would pay 35% of its “would be tax bill.” This is still giving such groups a 2/3 free ride on the backs of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.
The 35% of assessed value would be imposed IF, and only if, the organization could prove its request for non-profit status is legitimate.
Such a 35% contribution from all non-profits in Pittsfield would make this segment the largest sector of taxpayers in the city. Pittsfield can’t afford to walk away from this opportunity at tax equity.
For Example, Take Wentworth Institute of Technology, Please
Just as a comparison, Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston pays $40,000 to the city in lieu of taxes. That figure is less than 1% of the $5.6 million it would pay if its property were taxable. The 25% contribution would mean $1.4 million for the city, or an extra $1.36 million taken off the backs of taxpayers. THE PLANET wonders about the case of Berkshire Health Systems, by far the largest tax-exempt organization in the city and one of the largest in the state: is its self-described “substantial” contribution to the city in the Wentworth range, that is, a mere fraction of 1%?
This issue should issue should not go away. The incoming council-elect and Mayor-elect Dan Bianchi must seriously examine the PILOT issue and take immediate action.
Another Sign that the Mayan Calendar is Spot On, or, Kiss It Goodbye
For the first time in its 51+-year history, Berkshire Community College, where THE PLANET teaches as an adjunct professor of English, more incoming students were placed into remedial writing (ENG 060) than Composition 101 (college level writing I).
The results, obtained from BCC’s testing center, proves without doubt that the Pittsfield Public Schools and public education in general has failed to prepare students to take on college-level work upon graduation. How does this fly with the district’s stated intent of making EVERY — 100%, ALL — its student prepared to take on such work? The PSD is either lying, delusional, or hopelessly out of touch with its evaluative metrics.
Public schools in America are failing. In Pittsfield, the failure is masked by the schools’ disproportionate hogging of the municipal budget. The $82 million it takes to achieve failure stands as a testimony to the triumph of politics over education. Shame on all who defend this dysfunctional system that condemns too many kids to a lifetime of failure.
At one time, when BCC did not have an open admission policy — when, in other words, you actually had to qualify and prove you could handle college work — there was a reasonable assurance that if a young man or woman passed the entrance exams, they could compete at the college level. Students would enter in Composition I, then called Freshman Comp.
Today, colleges and universities across the country join BCC in having to provide remedial reading, writing, and math to prepare many students for college. How naive of THE PLANET. We though and continue to think that is the job of the public schools, pre-school through 12.
Boring Broadsheet Continues to Reach New Heights of Irrelevancy
While THE PLANET shares with you such vital information (our series on non-profits) and brings you stories that the Boring Broadsheet is afraid to publish (the wrecked bridge that pollutes the Housatonic River, from yesterday’s PLANET), the BB devoted 3/4 of its front page on Sunday to a cottony-soft fluff-piece promoting the tourist economy.
“Way to Grow,” the headline reads. Yeah, don’t we all.
Our good friend Clarence Fanto, who is now a staff writer there, dials up a fantasy about the “recovery” of the “crucial” hospitality industry in the Berkshires.
Fanto quotes Lauri Klefos, president and CEO of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau (an impartial expert if ever there was one), to bolster the claim that things are “going in the right direction” in a “steady recovery.”
There are enough gaps between the lines to squeeze Sophie Tucker through after she’s been the the Country Buffet. That’s the best a rah-rah type such as Klefos can do, a woman who’s job is to candy coat foil-wrapped chocolate dollars and pass them off as the real thing? When she tells us that the Recreation and Resort economy is “going in the right direction,” she’s actually saying that it’s not been going that way but has shown signs of changing direction. Problem is, when you look back on last year, and the year before, and the year before, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau says the same thing. Things are always “going in the right direction.” There are always “positive signs.”
Kelfos says to Fanto, “We’ve had some real wins this year.”
Don’t you love the modifier “real,” as if she has to distinguish these wins from the fake ones?Seems a teeny weeny, tadsy wadsy bit defensive, if you ask us. “We’ve had some real wins this year, but then the tropical storn hurt everyone’s projections.”
The “real wins” weren’t “real” at all apparently. She blames it on “tropical storms.” THE PLANET will add sunspots, swamp gas, subterranean waters, and St. Elmo’s Fire.
Fantos writes: “Statewide, tourism is the second-largest industry, with technology No. 1. In Berkshire County, tourism ranks either second or third, depending on the measurements used, Klefos said. Health care is No. 1 in the Berkshires economy, and the public sector ranks No. 2 or 3.”
There it is, in black and white, though the BB is trying to sneak that one by you. The healthcare segment ranks first local economy. And what company ranks first in healthcare, boys and girls? That’s right: Berkshire Health Systems, a not-for-profit company taking in hundreds of millions of dollars each year and spending most of it on salaries.
Any economy that counts healthcare and the public sector as the first and second most productive sectors is in deep, deep trouble. It means there are few private sector jobs in the technology and manufacturing sectors. Not good, children. Not good at all.
While the BB ate up 3/4 of its Sunday front page with this tripe, it also included an article on — drum roll, please, doctor — “swim safety.” In December. In Pittsfield.
Amanda Korman‘s dead-on-arrival piece (poor girl, she had no choice but to write up this turkey on orders from her editors) tells of another of those “Laws” named after a usually tragically deceased child. This one is “Christian’s Law.” We won’t bother you with the details, except to point out that this is how the BB fills up its newshole: Not on news that matters to you, but news that distracts you away from the incestuousness that is going in in this city among the GOBs, the BB, and the Vested Interests, a series of romps made possible by poison politics and — Cardinal Sin — done in the name of We The People.
There is no conspiracy going on. They don’t need to do that. They have discouraged you, my good friends, into apathy. Most everything they do is “legal” — including the not-for-profit rip off. You don’t need to hide under cover when you can pull off the robbery in broad daylight, in the name of the law.
The time has come for the residents of Pittsfield to DEMAND of their representatives A NEW WAY OF DOING BUSINESS.
AS WE GO SWIMMING IN THE SHOWER, WE PREPARE TO MOVE ON INTO OUR DAY, TRAIPSING CARE-FREE ALL THE WAY.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.