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Talks slow on private college payments

November 1, 2011

Providence officials have been asking private colleges and universities to increase their financial contributions to help balance the city budget, but city officials say the talks are moving slowly.

Private institutions like Brown, RISD and Providence College are exempt from property taxes, but they do provide annual payments to the city under an agreement reached nearly a decade ago. According to the Rhode Island Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, member schools provided $2.1 million to Providence this year under that agreement.

The schools also make payments for some city services, such as public safety, and they pay property taxes on any parcels not being used for educational purposes.

Providence officials say everyone is being asked to give more these days, and that should include tax exempt non profits. Colleges and Universities say they have also been affected by the economic downturn, and they can’t really afford higher payments.

A spokesman from the RI Association of Independent Colleges and Universities says member schools are using every penny they can find to increase student aid. He also tells me that colleges are not likely to increase financial contributions until other tax exempt organizations step up to the plate.

Providence has also been in talks with hospitals, which do not currently have an agreement to provide annual payments like the educational institutions. City officials tell me they are still hoping to reach an agreement with both schools and hospitals.

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