Last weekend, the Times-News reported how Hendersonville City Council is considering asking churches and nonprofits to voluntarily help pay toward services they receive from the city.
Through a public records request to the county tax office, the newspaper obtained a full report of all tax-exempt properties within the city limits. It turns out tax-exempt assets account for 639 properties and $404.5 million in value.
If these were included in the tax base, they would generate $2 million in revenue for the city, based on the current rate of 49 cent per $100 of valuation. For comparison, the city expects to bring in $8.5 million from taxable properties.
Presumably the city won’t request money from federal, state and local governments, including the city itself, which account for almost $170 million, the lion’s share among non-taxed entities.
Known by the acronym PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), this pay-what-you-want system is mainly used in the Northeast where Ivy League colleges and medical institutions make such contributions.
“PILOTs generate little revenue in most localities — accounting for less than 1 percent of total general revenue in 165 out of 181 localities that have information available,” states a 2012 report by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
Representatives of two of the largest nonprofits, Carolina Village and Pardee UNC Health Care, say they are willing to discuss the idea of making voluntary contributions. There’s no harm in asking, but city leaders should not count on these payments as a major source of revenue.
Our Wednesday editorial calling on local governments and the N.C. Department of Transportation to open to the public a meeting they had planned behind closed doors ruffled some feathers.
In the editorial, headlined “Conduct public affairs openly,” we called out leaders from Hendersonville, Henderson County, Flat Rock and the DOT for excluding the press and the public from a meeting about Kanuga Road.
Government leaders had planned to meet with members of the Save Kanuga Road group to review revised state plans to upgrade the road. They refused a request from a Times-News reporter to attend, saying they wanted to go over preliminary plans with the residents group to see what concerns they had before publicizing the plan. The Save Kanuga Road group said it would publish details on its Facebook page after the meeting.
Responding to the editorial, Hendersonville Councilman Steve Caraker decided to cancel Thursday’s meeting and let the residents’ group work directly with DOT. The state plans to unveil final revised plans for Kanuga in a public workshop in September or October.
Some residents are unhappy and blame the newspaper for causing the meeting to be canceled. We did not ask leaders to cancel the meeting, but to open it to the public and press as a matter of public interest.
We stand by our call for public officials to conduct the public’s business in the open. Kanuga Road is a public road and all residents — not just those who live nearby — have a stake in what happens there.