Councilwoman: More Comprehensive Approach Needed When It Comes to Negotiating Fair Princeton University PILOT

Princeton Borough Councilwoman Jo Butler said last night that the town needs to work harder and conduct a more detailed analysis when negotiating future voluntary payments from Princeton University.

Just before a vote by the Borough Council Tuesday night to accept Princeton University’s 2012 voluntary contribution (PILOT) of $1.7 million, Butler said communities like Boston have done a great deal of detailed work to determine what the nonprofits in their communities should pay in lieu of taxes. The City of Boston, for example, sent a bill to the nonprofits in its community for 25 percent of what the nonprofits would owe if they were not tax exempt.

Princeton University has increased its voluntary payment for 2012 from about $1.2 million to $1.7 million, a $500,000 increase over 2011, with $250,000 earmarked for consolidation transition costs. The school has also agreed to contribute $300,000 to the expansion of the fire house.

Butler said the Borough’s previous agreement with the University was much more complex, with increases in the contribution built in to account for increases in university square footage.

“I’m afraid this document does not reflect a lot of work,” she said of the 2012 agreement between the Borough and the University. “It looks like something that could have been drawn up on the back on of an envelope.  I don’t see the sort of work other communities have done. I hope going forward we can have a more comprehensive approach.”

Council President Barbara Trelstad thanked the University for the voluntary payment. “We’re very grateful to have opened this conversation and we thank the University for the increase,” she said.

New Mayor Yina Moore, who was sworn in last week,  said she was not the one who finalized the agreement.

“I share Councilwoman Butler’s concerns that there is a basis for recognizing the burdens and the benefits of a large ownership characteristic of any nonprofit one may have in a community,” Moore said. “This opens doors to further the conversation where needs and benefits are assessed and integrated. I  looking forward to furthering that discussion this year.”

Borough officials negotiated a one-year agreement with the University for the increased PILOT. Previously the Borough had a 6-year agreement with the University.  The University also agreed to pay Princeton Township a voluntary payment of $525,000 for 2012, plus an additional $250,000 toward the township’s consolidation transition costs. That agreement was approved in December.

Multi-year contracts were not agreed to this year because consolidation will take effect in January of 2013. Officials and the University plan to negotiate a new agreement for the consolidated Princeton.