LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Nonprofits should pay their share of property taxes

On paper, the valuation and percentage of tax-exempt property in the city of Dover could make some taxpayers wonder if everyone is paying their fair share.

An eye-opener for me was at last week’s Dover City Council Meeting when I noticed listed on the Agenda “Whatcoat Village Revitalization Payment-In-Lieu Of Taxes (Pilot)” where a prior meeting of the Council Committee of the Whole recommended authorizing the city manager to negotiate and execute a final agreement with Whatcoat Community Development, Inc. regarding a proposed pilot agreement for Whatcoat Village located at 992 Whatcoat Village Drive.

Brian E. Lewis

Brian E. Lewis

Since many citizens are unaware of recommendations from the City Council Committee of the Whole meetings, which are separate meetings that are untelevised and rarely attended by the media, I asked the city manager to explain this item in detail for the record and how much the city would receive in lieu of the taxes that everyone else has to pay in full.

After his explanation, I thought to myself, “How many tax-exempt properties do we have in the city of Dover and how many millions of dollars are we losing in taxes because of these properties?” After asking our city tax assessors, I was told that, in total summary, the city of Dover has 641 parcels with $1,302,769,000 in value as exempt. This results in $5,276,214.45 in taxes (using the current rate of $0.405/$100).

As some state aid to cities and towns has dropped by double digits in recent years, and while executives’ salaries routinely climb over $200,000 at nonprofit hospitals, universities, and museums, some elected leaders such as myself have chosen to push for payment in property taxes. All the nonprofits benefit from city services, and thus, should help pay for police and fire protection, road maintenance and snow plowing, just to name a few.

I know some mayors and town managers are trying to persuade larger nonprofits — which often are the region’s largest employers — to make annual voluntary payments which may help ease the burden, but if this trend continues, and if the nonprofits continue to buy up commercial property and continue to make it all go tax-exempt, in the long run, there’s no way that the city can financially survive.

I personally believe these nonprofits should pay their assessed property tax liability. No more tax welfare and cost-shifting to the homeowners and small businesses that do pay their full share of property taxes. As I stated at the June 27 City Council meeting, “City services are not free” — especially for those tax-exempt properties that engage in commerce when they sell a product or service.

At this juncture, I would like to see a thorough study conducted with a review of all tax-exempt properties in Dover and recommendations from the City Tax Assessor’s Office.

Councilman Brian E. Lewis
Second District, City of Dover

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