St. Paul PILOT Project

The committee’s recommendations are complete. Click here for the Final Report

Driving through Saint Paul one easily identifies the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Cathedral of Saint Paul, the State Capitol, the Minnesota History Center, Regions Hospital, and the many higher education institutions. These recognizable and important organizations help form the fabric of Saint Paul with impressive missions and work that add so much to our community. The city has literally grown up with many of these organizations that undeniably contribute to the vibrancy and citizenry of Saint Paul.

While these non-profit organizations are also property tax exempt entities, meaning they don’t pay property taxes because of their government, charitable, religious, or educational missions, they also consume city services like police, fire, and snow removal.

In the past, the City of Saint Paul used right-of-way assessments from all property owners (including tax exempt properties) as a major revenue alternative to property taxes, but the Minnesota Supreme Court recently determined the practice was unconstitutional in First Baptist Church of Saint Paul v. City of Saint Paul. This created a gap in the Saint Paul budget.   Of the gap, approximately $1.8 million is revenue previously paid by tax exempt properties.

Should Saint Paul adopt a “payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program as other cities like Boston have? Do these Saint Paul property tax-exempt entities have the ability or the willingness to make voluntary civic contributions to help the city? What would work best for everyone in Saint Paul?

These were initial questions before us as we convened a study committee to have a discussion and present the city with findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

We began our study committee process in April and put together a top-notch committee with 23 representatives of key stakeholders from for-profits, non-profits, residential, commercial and industrial property owners, generalists, and experts on the issue.

The committee held thirteen meetings including a city budget presentation, insights from local property tax-exempt and taxable organizations and a presentation from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the City of Boston, an initiator of a major PILOT program.

After looking at the data behind the Saint Paul budget, the legal basis and other PILOT programs across the country, we came to the conclusion that Saint Paul is has a unique opportunity that calls for a uniquely Saint Paul strategy.

The committee is recommending that the City of Saint Paul and its property tax-exempt organizations do what has always worked best in Saint Paul: sitting down together to build a uniquely-Saint Paul partnership and strategy that provides for the future health and vitality of all of the organizations and individuals in Saint Paul. Their fates remain intertwined and their successes remain dependent on each other.


Committee Members & Affiliations

Click here for the full list of committee members.


All meetings are open to the public. RSVP required to Sean Kershaw: [email protected].

Click here for future meetings dates and times. (Subject to change – please RSVP to ensure correct meeting time and location.)

Thursday, August 16, 2017

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Additional Info

  • Scope is limited to whether or not a ‘payment in lieu of taxes’ and/or ‘services in lieu of taxes’ (PILOT/SILOT) model is advisable, and how the program would be structured and sustained if so.
    • Committee may determine that either idea is inadvisable. The outcome is not predetermined.
    • Scope does NOT include questions related to ‘right of way’ services that the city will assess against all properties in 2017.
    • Committee would need to determine which types of entities would be included in any potential program.
    • The Committee has the ability to refine the scope once it’s started its work.
  • Structure will include representatives from key stakeholders on this issue: a range of for-profits, nonprofits, property owners, and both generalists and experts on this topic.
    • Citizens League board has final determination of membership of the committee, and the committee is an independent project of the Citizens League.
    • City of St. Paul employees/representatives will provide background and information, and can observe the deliberations and testify, but not formal committee members.
    • Meetings will be open and schedules available publicly.
  • Proposed outcomes:
    • Findings: Shared understanding of the facts, data and local/national trends on this issue. Goal is to make these findings accessible and relevant to broader public.
    • Conclusions: Shared set of statements and questions related to the implications of these findings. Why do they matter to the citizens of St. Paul and the region?
    • Recommendations: Proposed set of actionable recommendations IF changes are needed to address current situation. (Committee could decide status quo is sufficient.) Given timeline below, recommendations might come in phases.
    • Base of support for implementation: Buy-in from key stakeholders needed to advance and sustain any potential recommendations.
  • Timeline and time commitment:
    • Anticipated nine (9) two-hour meetings, starting at 7:30 am.
    • Goal is to have final proposal, or first phase of recommendations, ready by August 2017, in time for 2018 budget deliberations.
  • Funding:
    • $41,000 budget
    • Majority of funding from St. Paul Foundation and Bigelow Foundation approved. Additional funding is still being sought.

Questions: Sean Kershaw, Citizens League Executive Director, [email protected].