Much like students in a seminar course, the Citizens League committee looking at whether or not Saint Paul should create and implement a PILOT/SILOT program spent their sixth meeting synthesizing what they’ve learned, so far. They took stock of where they’ve been and began thinking about where they might go in their remaining weeks together.

One by one, members were encouraged to share their week-old thoughts about the presentations from Daphne Kenyon, Lincoln Land Institute of Land Policy, and Matt Englander, City of Boston Assessing Department. Some of the comments included:

  • Boston/Saint Paul is a false comparison, there must be a city with taxing and tax-exempt profiles more like Saint Paul’s (staff will post a link to Lincoln Land materials that may address this concern);
  • A lot of services provided by Saint Paul non-profits are provided by the county not the city, unlike in Boston where the city, school district, and county are the same municipality;
  • In Boston, the lack of contractual agreements for PILOT participation is surprising- only letters;
  • Forming collaborations take a lot of work and is not easy, partnerships must find common ground and turn heads to the positive;
  • Surprised the Boston initiative has no administrative cost attached;
  • Political capital has to be at the table, Boston’s strong mayor is participating in the process.

A half an hour later, the pump was nearly primed for discussions that would lead to drafting recommendations in August. Before that, a non-binding, anonymous straw poll allowed committee members to indicate where they are to date. The results:

  • Is a Saint Paul PILOT model advisable? Yes: 57% No: 43%
  • Is a Saint Paul SILOT model advisable? Yes: 55% No: 45%
  • Looking forward, each in turn, committee members raised questions and concerns; and they expressed opinions, including:
  • Keep talking about the committee’s scope; perhaps it should be expanded from city-level to state-level, this is a state problem given the way cities are funded, local government aid (LGA);
  • PILOT/SILOT programs are not really voluntary, the lack of uniform compliance raises issues of coercion and fairness;
  • Don’t give the city the idea this is easy, creating a successful PILOT/SILOT program will take time, commercial properties are likely to be assessed taxes to meet budgetary needs;
  • PILOT may not be the only way for city to collect revenue, there’s a belief that non-profits could contribute something;
  • The city has a budget problem, it’s not the committee’s role to address the city’s problem;
  • Eventual success is down to relationships, it would take a reorientation to a much stronger customer-relations mindset on the part of the city, there is no love lost;
  • PILOT will not solve the city’s budget problem, even if the program is successful, some of this is a distraction from the real problem;
  • If a non-profit pays PILOT, the poor may pay in fewer services;
  • Where is the line drawn on non-profit participation, the formula is important, what are other cities doing;
  • More input from the city council and the mayor is needed, what is being done to hold down costs, the city administration owns this problem;
  • How will the committee’s recommendation help solve the 2018 budget problem, how is the problem solved in the long-term;
  • The idea of earmarking (where PILOT payments go) is attractive.

Previous agendas, minutes, and background material can be found on our project page.

The next committee meeting is set for Thursday, July 13, 7:30 – 9:30 a.m., at the Wilder Foundation, 451 Lexington Parkway, St. Paul. The meeting is open to the public.