Cheh encourages nonprofit payments

D.C. Councilmember and GW Law professor Mary Cheh is floating the idea of having nonprofits make payments to the city in various forms in lieu of taxes, to help boost the city’s profits and cut the budget shortfalls.

Payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, would offer the budget shortfall-facing District additional revenue and partially offset costs incurred for use of the city’s resources.

“It would be an attempt to have some payment for the services the University receives from the District,” Cheh said.

Cheh said in most other cities and towns, PILOTs are paid voluntarily, but are sometimes collected through legislation. PILOTs are used in at least 117 towns and cities across the nation, including Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore, according to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

A GW official said the University gives back to the city in other ways, making PILOTs, in his opinion, unnecessary.

“The University has pledged to Mayor Gray and the council that it will continue to help address the city’s needs,” Michael Akin, assistant vice president of Government, International and Community Relations, said. “We think this can best be accomplished without payments in lieu of taxes.”

Akin said D.C. high school students receive about $16 million in scholarships, and a partnership allows School Without Walls students enrolled in GW’s Early College Program to receive associate degrees at no cost.

“GW contributes to the

wide variety of ways benefitting the city and its citizens, providing economic, educational and cultural benefits,” Akin said.

The University also provides non-cash contributions to the city through partnerships with local schools, Akin said, like Ballou Senior High School where this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service was held. GW staff members also teach at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

The Tufts Daily reported that Tufts University, outside of Boston, would owe the town of Somerville about $5.5 million annually if it had not negotiated to give $1.75 million over a period of 10 years. Boston University has agreed to PILOTs that are nearly $4.6 million a year.

Cheh said though she has floated the idea, she has no plans to formally introduce legislation calling for PILOTs. Instead, she said she hopes to gather Mayor Vincent Gray, other councilmembers and local nonprofits to discuss how PILOT systems could be implemented.

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