City Council President Gary McCarthy acknowledged Tuesday the uphill battle in even suggesting such an endeavor, but said it would be a good way to get discussion going about the financial burdens municipalities face as costs skyrocket and large nonprofits, like hospitals and colleges, pay no property taxes.
McCarthy noted at the council's committee meeting Tuesday night that Ellis Medicine did contribute $40,000 in October as the city faced a large budget deficit, but "Union College has been more or less dragged to the plate," to get the private institution to pay a fee in lieu of taxes, he said. The college announced last week it is giving $40,000 based on what Ellis already gave. The combined $80,000 will keep two city pools open.
"There are multi-million dollar enterprises in this city that are far bigger than some for-profit corporations," he said.
City Council members directed the law office to draft a letter to be sent to all cities and some large villages asking if there would be support to lobby state lawmakers to draft legislation that would require a property tax on nonprofits. Council members said any measure would likely mean nonprofits would only pay a portion of what residential and commercial property owners pay.
Mayor Brian U. Stratton said he supports the efforts, but has gotten staunch resistance before from the Conference of Mayors because of lobbying done by nonprofits.
Councilwoman Denise Brucker said she wants to see if churches can be accountable for a payment as some buildings are rented out with a benefit to the faith organization -- such as the Albany Catholic Diocese renting former schools to the city school district.
Stratton tried to assess a curb fee on nonprofits for the 2011 budget, but canned the idea after it was found the fee wouldn't make the $1.4 million he wanted. He sent letters to some 145 nonprofits asking the fee be voluntary; the city got about $16,000 back.