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December 16, 2013

Selectman wants Prep to contribute in lieu of taxes

Thorny issue in Danvers, where school has strong ties

DANVERS — Selectman Bill Clark says Danvers should seek a voluntary payment in lieu of taxes from its largest landholder, St. John’s Preparatory School, to help pay for services such as street paving, snow plowing and emergency response.

“They are the largest landowner in Danvers,” Clark said of St. John’s Prep, which has more than 175 acres, “and their property is probably worth the most of any outside the mall. And, yet, they don’t pay a thing.”

Clark also hopes to seek PILOT — payment in lieu of taxes — agreements with other large nonprofits in town.

Clark said that he has been a longtime, outspoken proponent of seeking a voluntary payment from the Prep, a Catholic day school for boys, but said there has been strong push-back from those with ties to the more than 100-year-old school.

“We just have to look at diversified revenue, because they are a big impact on the town,” said Clark, who added that he has no interest in pursuing payments from churches or synagogues that may be struggling.

St. John’s Prep is an Xaverian Brothers-sponsored school with 1,150 students from more than 80 communities. Tuition is $19,950 a year, and roughly a third of students receive need-based tuition assistance, said Elizabeth Forbes, managing director of marketing and communications for the Prep.

Its property includes holdings of the American Northeast Province of the Xaverian Brothers, according to the assessors office. The 177.83 acres have a combined assessment of $28 million.

If taxed at the commercial rate, the Prep would be paying about $585,000 in taxes. Because it is a nonprofit educational and religious institution, however, it is exempt from taxes.

The town has no plans in the near future to implement a townwide PILOT program for tax-exempt entities, a notion that selectmen rejected three years ago, Town Manager Wayne Marquis said.

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