- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - The mayor of New Haven is backing a push to revisit an 1834 Connecticut statute affecting taxes for Yale University, saying new guidelines are needed to assess liability for the institution that has grown to occupy 1,000 acres in the city.

A proposal in the state legislature would clarify the statute that says certain colleges including Yale “shall not hold in this state real estate free from taxation affording an annual income of more than six thousand dollars.”

As Yale has grown into a research university with an annual budget of $3.2 billion, city officials say a new approach is needed to help distinguish its commercial real estate holdings from its educational real estate holdings, which are tax-exempt.

“Since taxing real estate and other property is the only form of municipal taxation allowed by state law, more modern guidelines as to what’s taxable and what’s tax exempt are essential,” New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said this week in testimony supporting the legislation.

For one example, Harp said she was concerned that a privately owned building purchased last month by Yale could come off the tax rolls, costing the city $275,000 in annual revenue. She said the building could become a Yale-operated technology hub from which products and services are sold to surrounding businesses.

The Ivy League university has strongly objected to proposal.

Richard Jacob, a Yale associate vice president for federal and state relations, said in written testimony to the state legislature this week that Yale is the city’s largest employer and makes a voluntary annual payment to New Haven of more than $8.2 million. He said the proposed change and another piece of legislation that would tax earnings on Yale’s $25.6 billion endowment would overturn longstanding exemptions from certain taxes.

“Given Yale’s unparalleled commitment to New Haven, and the gains made by the City of New Haven and Yale in building employment, expanding the tax base, and strengthening neighborhoods and schools, the proposal to single out Yale by imposing unprecedented, ambiguous, and sweeping new taxes on the University is troubling,” Jacob said.

Jacob said the more than $4.5 million that Yale paid in property taxes for non-academic buildings in 2014 made it one of the top five sources of property tax revenue for New Haven.

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