Comptroller Candidate: Tax Yale, Y-NHH

Paul Bass PhotoMark Greenberg has an idea for how to pump more tax money into cities while spending less, not more, state money: Tax big universities and hospitals.

Like, for instance, Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Greenberg suggested lifting state property tax exemptions for those institutions during an interview about his current candidacy for the Republican nomination for state comptroller.

“The fact that Yale University should be paying nothing in real estate taxes is absurd,” Greenberg said during an interview on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program.

Greenberg, who is 64 and lives in Litchfield, has run for Congress three times in the Fifth U.S. Congressional District. This year he’s facing Kurt Miller, Seymour’s first selectman, for the Republican nod to challenge incumbent Democratic Comptroller Kevin Lembo in November.

Miller won the endorsement of the state party at its recent convention. Greenberg obtained enough delegate support to qualify for an Aug. 14 primary; he has since announced (click here to read the release) that he is indeed pursuing that primary.

The comptroller, as Greenberg put it, serves as state government’s “chief financial officer.” Besides signing government workers’ checks, he or she issues quarterly budget forecasts and sits on the State Bond Commission. Greenberg said he wants to use his experience as owner of a successful real estate business to help steer the state government toward fiscal discipline.

“I’m very well off. I have a great family. Five kids. The greatest wife in the world. I don’t need the gig. I feel like I want to give back to the state. And this state is falling apart right now,” he said.

“I remember when the state was absolutely the greatest, not only in the Northeast, but in the country! Before the income tax and before [former Gov.] Lowell Weicker, this was where everybody came. Wealthy individuals in Greenwich and Stamford. They brought their business and their hedge funds. Came to Fairfield and Greenwich …”

His stand on tax exemptions for large nonprofits, and the state’s Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program to reimburse cities for lost revenue, doesn’t fit neatly into party or ideological categories. That’s because the issue itself doesn’t, either. A Republican U.S. senator (from Iowa) has led the charge to reexamine how big tax-exempt universities spend their endowments, joined by progressive union activists (in New Haven). A Democratic governor (in Connecticut) in 2017 advocated taxing real estate owned by big hospitals. In 2016, New Haven politicians pushed an unsuccessful state bill to remove some of Yale’s tax exemptions. Democratic and Republican legislators alike have defended nonprofits’ tax-exempt status. Meanwhile, the institutions argue that they already pay a lot of money in taxes, have tax exemptions enshrined in law, and in the case of the hospitals provide services for the poor at great loss.

Following is an excerpt from the discussion about that subject with Greenberg on WNHH’s “Dateline” program (recorded before the state convention).

Cities & PILOT

Paul Bass Photo

Greenberg: Ridiculous: 60 percent of Hartford’s off the rolls. Fifty percent of Waterbury’s off the rolls.

WNHH: Fifty-four percent of New Haven …

Fifty-four percent. This has to be corrected. Cities have to be made more vital if we’re going to solve our problem.

How would you correct it?

You know something? The assessors could correct it to some extent. Because 501(c)3s have to prove that they’re using their real estate for the purpose of their mission. The assessors do not press the 501(c)3s.

The opposite view is you collude with them to bump up how much their properties are worth so we get greater reimbursements under PILOT.

PILOT reimbursements are nothing and small and finite.

OK. It’s a bad subject! The fact that Yale University should be paying nothing in real estate taxes is absurd.

Charles Grassley, the Republican U.S senator, agrees with you about [examining] higher ed tax exemptions. So would you be for taxing Yale?

Yeah. Sure. Why not? Based on means. Based on capability of paying. They have a billion dollars in the bank!

In New Haven, so much of our 54 percent of tax-exempt property [is owned by] two entities: Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital. So we’re not going to get so much more if we scour every last church to see if they’re really tax exempt.

So would you deal with it, rather than increasing state [PILOT] payments to the city, by putting not-for-profits on the tax rolls?

Absolutely. Based upon need, and based upon if they’re using their property for the right purposes.

I’ll give you an example. Every four years the Simon Foundation, my animal-rescue foundation, gets a quadrennial quesitonnaire that goes into [how] I’m using my facility, which saves dogs and cats in Bloomfield. What are we using it for? If I’m not using the whole facility for my mission, then I’m obligated to pay a portion of that assessed value in taxes.

Well in my case I use my full facility for the mission.… The point is, the assessors need to look into the 501(c)3 properties are being used for.

I think I’m hearing you say that if you’re a wealthy institution of higher education — for instance if your endowment is above $20 billion —  you can pay taxes on your property to the city.

I think so. Absolutely.

What about hospitals?

We have to look at the means very carefully.

What about big hospitals?

Big hospitals?

Yale-New Haven Hospital?

Sure. Why not? Let’s look at it.

They say that’s going to make it harder for them to deliver care to the poor because they’re already taking a haircut on Medicaid.

Of course they’re saying that, because they don’t want to pay taxes. Every situation’s different. By the way, there’s a tremendous consolidation in hospitals. The point is that hospitals are actually becoming stronger as they’re going through this consolidation and as they’re understanding Obamacare a little better. Insurers are becoming stronger, too, like Aetna.

The bottom line is I want to look at their profitability, I want to look at what portion of their real estate they’re using for their actual mission, which is taking care of people, as opposed to just housing members of their board or things like that.

You’re talking about two issues here: You’re talking about whether they have expenses they’re calling not-for-profit that aren’t.

I want to nail you down on this. I think you’re also saying that the legitimate education mission of higher education that big universities have should still not exempt them from paying local property taxes. And you’re saying that about hospitals too. In addition to the issues you brought up, like small stuff, like the house the executive might have, you’re also saying the social mission should not be exempting them any more from property taxes …

We have to look at means as well.

Right. But Yale-New Haven and Hartford Hospital: Should they be paying taxes?

Sure.

Not “look at it.” Should we do it?

Yeah. Let’s do it. Let’s do it.

So you’re saying [Connecticut] would no longer have to make these payments in lieu of taxes, which would help the state budget; and cities that have been screwed out of not being able to tax their property will then be able to …

Let me give you a perfect example. We talk about ECS [Educational Cost Sharing]. We talk about redistribution of wealth from stronger towns to the cities. The City of Hartford has thousands, millions of dollars of assessments sitting with the state of Connecticut, that the state is paying no taxes on! Why doesn’t the state pay its share of taxes to the city of Hartford? Which will then reduce a payment that it ultimately it has to pay?

You’re talking about the second group of Payment In Lieu Of Taxes-covered properties. First you had the not-for-profits. Then you have state-owned property. Do you think the state should pay taxes to cities on state-own property?

Yes.

Why?

Why not? Ultimately it’s coming from somewhere.

We’d love you in New Haven for that, because now you’re solved our [revenue] problem. But now you’ve made that [state government] budget problem you’ve identified worse, Mark Greenberg. Because now the state, which already can’t pay its bills, would have to pay for all this office space.

Well, it’s taking out of one hand, putting it into the other, actually.

I see your point on PILOT [for big hospitals and universities]. In that case, you’re not costing the state more. You’re shifting the cost to hospitals and universities — which, by the way, [Gov.] Dannel Malloy did try to get the hospitals to pay more taxes. And both parties stopped him.

Inherent to what I’m saying is this taxation system we have doesn’t work. Hasn’t worked for a number of years. So we have to come up with something different. We have to come up with something out of the box. Where we don’t produce these deficits year after year after year. Thinking the old way is not going to work. We have to look at the whole methodology.

 

Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below for the full interview with Mark Greenberg on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.”

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posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on June 11, 2018  8:58am

Sounds good to me, tax Yale.
The hospital is a tax exempt monopoly at this point and the school builds apartments-not dorms, to house students also tax exempt. Not right.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 11, 2018  9:05am

Mark Greenberg has an idea for how to pump more tax money into cities while spending less, not more, state money: Tax big universities and hospitals.Like, for instance, Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital.Greenberg suggested lifting state property tax exemptions for those institutions during an interview about his current candidacy for the Republican nomination for state comptroller

Election Time Snake-Oil and Three Card Monte Being sold along with this.

Imagination - Just An Illusion

https://youtu.be/NhXoBzj5px8

posted by: theNEWnewhaven on June 11, 2018  9:21am

Ok, this is all fun and all but Yale has been an integral part of the survival of this city AND offers up money to the city in donations.

What needs to happen, like elsewhere, is ANNEXING of communities and/or REGIONALISM.

We have to be real with ourselves, though, as it is our STATE and CITY politicians who floundered the swag of yesterday.

We have a chance for change and it’ll simply come from a more conservative approach at spending.

posted by: 1644 on June 11, 2018  9:37am

On on-the-fly evolution from a meaningless, “Let’s look at it,” to a “Sure, why not,” as popular as the latter may be in New Haven,  marks Mark as someone not ready for prime-time.  BTW,  the amount of tax-exempt property in the cities is not unusual.  Voluntown is 2/3’s state land,  Branford is over 30% tax-exempt open space or other.  New Haven’s problem is that the properties on its tax rolls skew toward net users of government services rather than neutral or net tax contributors.  Orange, Milford, Branford, North Haven have used zoning to support their budgets, with lots of industrial and commercial properties.

posted by: John Bodnar on June 11, 2018  9:59am

Mr.Greenberg seems to forget that YNHH takes a hit if someone is on Title 19. They still provide quality care for that person.There are no simple solutions to complex problems. Kinda reminds me of our current President.

posted by: robn on June 11, 2018  10:05am

Greenberg should know that the exemption is baked into the state Constitution and bolstered by case law.
If he was smart he’d change his tune and talk about getting the State of Connecticut to reimburse cities for the large exemptions which nowadays clearly violate the Equal Protection Clause of the State Constituion.

posted by: wendy1 on June 11, 2018  10:49am

@ Bodnar, you are wrong.  YNHH dumps homeless pts.back on the street and refuses RX to addicts.  They do not get overnight hospitalization let alone detox for drugs including alcohol.  YNHH operates at a multi-million dollar PROFIT.

TAX YALE… or the city will fail.

posted by: Patricia Kane on June 11, 2018  11:19am

Regionalism would definitely reduce the cost of too many local governments and the duplication of services.
  Eliminating or reducing (we could have thresholds of income and assets) anachronistic exemptions that only exacerbate the gross disparity in wealth and poverty created in the last 70 years is a long overdue move.
  No doubt Yale will use its $1 million PR budget to lobby the State Legislature, but exemptions are a creature of state law and can be changed. Even case law changes and those who want to retain their privileges know that.
  It’s great that Greenberg is putting the issue up front.
  Will any Democrat or Independent join him?
  The people of New Haven, facing an 11% tax increase this year - and maybe next - can’t afford to subsidize the Principality of Yale ($30 billion in the endowment alone), Yale New Haven Hospital and Tweed Airport.
  The City has 30+ employees for 85 parks.
  Broken sidewalks and road are in need of repair.
  The system is broken. The only question is whether the political will to fix it exists.
  Public works projects sit on the drawing board awaiting funding.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on June 11, 2018  1:11pm

TNNH and Patricia, regionalization in fact makes sense. But it is tied up with race, which means it won’t happen anytime soon. A substantial majority of the state’s voters are suburbanites, and many see cities as places where “those people” live (notwithstanding the fact that nationally more POC live in suburbs than cities).

Picking up on 1644’s post, the Comptroller plays no role in setting tax policy. Either Greenberg knows this and is posturing for votes or he doesn’t, in which case I wonder whether he is qualified for the position.

Robn, the constitutional exemption applies to Yale, Wesleyan, and Connecticut College. There are separate statutory exemptions for universities generally, hospitals, private schools, etc.

posted by: LookOut on June 11, 2018  1:16pm

Here here 1644 - if Branford has so much land that is exempt from taxation, how can they have a mill rate of 27? 

This is not a revenue problem, it is a spending problem. 

If all of the Yale properties where magically made taxable tomorrow (which would require a change to the CT Constitution), first we would only gain a portion of the benefit because the PILOT payments and the millions that Yale pays on a voluntary basis would go away.  Second, within a couple of years, our politicians would have burned through any excess and we would be back to where we are today.

This is not a revenue problem, it is a spending problem.

posted by: JCFremont on June 11, 2018  1:29pm

The reason so much of our major cities properties are owned or sit on non-profit buildings is because no one, especially large businesses wants to take over or build in these cities. Many those that had been here have left. Yale and the hospital is all we have left. You have a business that could add blue collar jobs, good luck if your industry includes noise, smell or any other type of disturbances. Hedge Fund managers? Your kidding in New Haven? Half the city see’s the SOM as New Haven’s Death Star. Keep it up maybe we can turn Yale into a quaint liberal arts college. Regionalism needs to be looked at but please, this does not mean an added level of government bureaucracy.

posted by: John Bodnar on June 11, 2018  1:44pm

Wendy1can you provide names or photos? Where are all these patients?You are simply missing the point. Employers like GE left the state and their high paying jobs.Our state cannot compete because anytime someone wants to build here the NIMBY crowd shows up.Even the existing firms that are left want to leave because of constant harassment from the state and its neighbors.As a former employee of Delta(Comair)I witnessed it weekly.

posted by: robn on June 11, 2018  2:51pm

KM,

My point is that the tax exemptions are a creature of the state and the responsibility for paying for those should be owned up to by the state. Its unconstitutional to deny New Haven 40% of its tax base.

LOOKOUT,

I don’t disagree with you that this city has a spending problem. It would be more evident if that money came out of one big tax coffer in a Mayoral budget with choices made by us… not hundreds of tiny side deals by legislators for earmarking state funding.

posted by: 1644 on June 11, 2018  3:23pm

Look out: Branford’s mill rate is currently 28.47, and will likely be 29 next fiscal year.  Unlike New Haven, the vast majority of actual voters are homeowners, and therefore taxpayers.  Therefore, virtually everything the town does is viewed through the prism of the mill rate.  Within the electorate, those who want more tax funded services, like school health care centers, are balanced by those who fear becoming a magnet for the poor.  Land used decisions are made with an eye to the public fiscal:  commercial and industrial development is favored,  housing for families, particular low-cost, and therefore low-revenue, housing is disfavored.  Open space is favored because, while the land won’t generate taxes,  it also won’t house children who need to be educated at $18/K each while their parents pay only $6k in taxes on their house.
  For New Haven,  so long as the PILOT payments, both voluntary and state, pay for the actual services rendered to YNHH, Yale and Southern, it doesn’t really matter if those places are tax free.  The important thing is how New Haven uses the rest of its land.  New Haven struggles because it has often chosen to develo its taxable land in ways that are not revenue positive.  DeStefano begged Yale to take the old laundry site by Canal street off the tax rolls,  developers are required to set aside a portion of their developments for affordable housing, thereby lessening the tax value of their projects,  the BoA choose not to put the Strong School back on the tax rolls,  it took a lot of land off the tax rolls to build schools,  further back,  the city opposed the restart of the English Station and opposed the sale of Quinnipiac Terrence land to a private developer when Fair Haven was gentrifying.  Rather than grow its Grand List,  New Haven prefers to beg from Hartford.

posted by: JCFremont on June 11, 2018  3:48pm

Tax Yale’s Exempt property! OK, what is the value of The Old Campus? Does anybody want to buy the houses on Hillhouse Ave and return them to full residential use? Any Tech, Hedgie or Russian Oligarchy want to buy The Davies Mansion?

posted by: wendy1 on June 11, 2018  5:10pm

JC FREMONT—-I like your comments.  Maybe you are a retired pilot like my uncle.  I dont have photos and my witnesses are long gone but there is a website called MadMedicine.com run by a lady MD who also witnessed pt. dumping in her state.  A shrink in Baltimore was a witness to pt. dumping there as well.  I emailed him but got no reply as I am a “nobody”.

Long ago this city should have been getting big dough from Yale.  I dont care if they leave or not.  Their buildings can house thousands as well as small mom and pops, pop ups, and other venders, etc.  We can start over if only people were willing to compromise with other people.  It is practically impossible to get a consensus even with a gathering of two.  The only backup I have is me and probably ditto for you and these other commentators.  Society is really sick right now thanks to greed and lack of empathy.

If Yale is such a GREAT school, the best and brightest, how come our species and planet is such a mess??????  Yale, hiring platform for CIA, FBI, Foreign Service, State Dept., and the Whitehouse, hires well known war criminals to teach KIDS.  College is just a blip in their lives really or else a really EVIL influence.  Besides colleges are becoming trade schools according to media and we got Gateway.

posted by: wendy1 on June 11, 2018  5:12pm

I mixed JCFremont up with Bodnar—-both good guys….sorry.

posted by: 1644 on June 11, 2018  5:34pm

JC:  Other than Yale and YNHH, there is the port.  Unfortunately, the city has done a pretty good job of ignoring it (think MacKenzie Machine) or hindering its development, because, as you say, it can be noisy or smelly, etc. As others have stated, $500K for a study when we know we need to extend the rails?  Just extend the rails.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 11, 2018  5:38pm

Branford has a per capita income near twice that of New Haven and a poverty rate about 1/5 that of New Haven, and is not an urban center that has to provide all the services that come along with being a city. Comparing its mill rate to New Haven’s is asinine

posted by: JCFremont on June 11, 2018  6:51pm

@1644. I was surprised there was not more comments on the recent NHI article on the port study. But I’m sure if anything out of the box comes out of that study the NIMBY flags will fly. New Haven acts like the wealthy relative who’s finances have taken a downturn but must keep up appearances. Are Columbia, NYU, Penn, U of Chicago expected to be their cities financier?

posted by: 1644 on June 11, 2018  9:53pm

MADCAP:  1. Guilford’s per capita income is 25% higher than Branford’s, yet its mill rate is higher with fewer services (e.g., no trash pick-up).  2. Orange has substantially higher per capita income than Branford, but a higher mill rate, 3.  Milford’s per capita income is lower than Branford’s, but its mill rate is lower. 4. New Haven gets half its revenue from the state, Branford gets 3%.  Bottom line is, per capita income does not dictate mill rate so much as land use decisions.  Towns that focus on revenue positive development will have lower tax rates.  New Haven has had substantial tracts of undeveloped land, but often opposed development which would maximize tax revenue.  Shelton has seen a single-minded focus on its Grand List and hasn’t had a tax increase in over ten years.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 12, 2018  9:36am

“New Haven has had substantial tracts of undeveloped land”

Where? The largest site is the former Colliseuem site which while ripe for tax revenue due to its downtown location, is not exactly substantial. Also I notice you keep listing suburbs without listing the one that is closest in nature to New Haven, i.e. Hamden, which in fact has a similar mill rate(although Hamden is not New Haven and again it’s asinine to be throwing out these comparisons. Also Guilford’s per captita income is about 18% higher than Branford, not 25%, and their mill rate is not even a full point higher despite considerably less commercial development, although they are considering a hike of 8% last I herd)

posted by: Perspective on June 12, 2018  1:08pm

So Yale and the Hospitals have had tax exempt status for over 100 years and all of a sudden the solution to New Haven’s financial problems is to change this.  What happens when they run out of this money?  New Haven wants all the benefits of having Yale in its town but none of the cost.
I also love how everyone remarks “the state should give us the money” like the state is some separate entity or business. Where do you think the state gets its money… that’s right from you and I

posted by: robn on June 12, 2018  1:15pm

The Coliseum site is 7 acres….and DeStefano had a great project tee’d up. That opportunity was squandered.