General Assembly passes bill to alter Bryant’s tax-exempt status

A bill that would force Bryant University to pay Smithfield for its use of the town’s police, rescue and fire services in the absence of a deal with the town passed the General … More

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higher education

General Assembly passes bill to alter Bryant’s tax-exempt status

COURTESY BRYANT UNVIERSITY
BRYANT UNIVERSITY is urging Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee to veto a bill passed by the General Assembly this week, which would force the school to pay the Town of Smithfield for its use of the town's police, rescue and fire services.
Posted 7/3/13

SMITHFIELD – A bill that would force Bryant University to pay Smithfield for its use of the town’s police, rescue and fire services in the absence of a deal with the town passed the General Assembly this week, stirring sharp criticism from the university.

The legislation, which passed the state Senate on a 31-6 vote Monday evening after clearing the House Friday, would amend Bryant’s tax-exempt status so that Smithfield can bill any university for the services’ costs, barring a memorandum of agreement, starting March 1.

Bryant has called on Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee to veto the bill. In a statement released Tuesday, the university disparaged what it called “heavy-handed legislation [coming] after several months of good-faith discussions with the Town of Smithfield.”

Bryant noted its $800,000 in annual support to Smithfield, $300,000 of which is voluntary, as well as other economic benefits the university brings to its surroundings.

Bryant also cited the state’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, program, through which Rhode Island reimburses Smithfield with $500,000 each year to make up for Bryant’s tax-exempt status. Under the new legislation, the university argued, the town would “double-dip.”

Recent attempts to work out an agreement ended in further acrimony last month when Bryant President Ronald K. Machtley did not show up at a Town Council meeting on the issue and the two sides proposed vastly different payment amounts for a potential deal, The Valley Breeze reported at the time.

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