The topic surfaced at the Jan. 6 council meeting, when councilor Bill DeWitt asked for an update on the tax exempt status of St. Andrew’s School.
The solicitor, Mike Ursillo, said the small private school could not be taxed — it had been granted tax exempt status in a charter dating back decades — but added that a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deal was a possibility.
Mr. DeWitt built a case for collecting some money from the school. He said the state had set a limit to the number of tax exempt acres an institution could cover and that St. Andrew’s far exceeded that limit. He added that the school utilizes a number of town services — police, fire and public schools (children of St. Andrew’s School faculty and staff who live on campus often attend Barrington public schools).
“How do we as neighbors put together something that makes sense?” Mr. DeWitt asked.
John Harker, a resident who volunteers at St. Andrew’s School, invited the council members to visit the campus and see firsthand the good work the school does for its students.
He also held up a copy of the Barrington Times from 2000 which featured a story about the school’s donation of 28 acres of land to the town. That property — the St. Andrew’s Farm Field — is now home to an athletic field and walking trails open to the public.
“We think we have done some good work on behalf of the town, and we welcome the conversation,” Mr. Harker said.
Barrington resident Arlene Violet said it was time the town started exploring a PILOT deal with St. Andrew’s School. She agreed that the school does “good things,” but that for decades it has been receiving free services from the town.
“I think the town has been extremely generous,” she said.
Mr. DeWitt made a motion to have the town manager enter a discussion with St. Andrew’s School officials regarding a PILOT deal. Mr. DeWitt and council president June Speakman also agreed to participate in the town’s discussions with the private school.
Providence officials have recently negotiated payments from colleges in that city. According to a story from Boston.com, the payments from all the institutions (Providence College, Brown University, Johnson & Wales University and Rhode Island School of Design) will total nearly $48 million over 11 years.
During the Barrington council meeting, Mr. DeWitt said the tax exempt status of St. Andrew’s School results in the loss of about $414,000 in revenue annually for the town.
St. Andrew’s School Headmaster John Martin attended the council meeting but did not comment during the discussion.