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PILOTs and Philadelphia's Green Spaces

What are PILOTs?

PILOT stands for Payments In Lieu Of Taxes. They are payments made by non-profits to compensate the government for some of the the tax revenue lost because of the tax exempt use of property. Wealthier nonprofits can pay PILOTs to compensate for their tax-exempt status. In Philadelphia, different groups, like Drexel for PILOTs, are asking wealthy nonprofits (University of Pennsylvania, Jefferson University and Drexel University) to pay 40% of their foregone property taxes to support Philly's public schools.



What does it mean to be a "Non-profit"?

A non-profit is an organization that is not making or conducted primarily to make a profit... like LandHealth Institute! At LandHealth our primary purpose is to Put Nature Back: to re-connect Philadelphia's community with Philadelphia's nature and vise versa. The term "non-profit" also includes institutions with a primary purpose to "educate"... like the universities here in Philadelphia. Although the universities do much more than just educate, they reap all the benefits of being under the non-profit umbrella...like not having to pay property taxes.


Philadelphia has 29.6 billion dollars worth of tax exempt property- the most tax-exempt property of any major city in the country. Tax cuts that were meant to spur economic growth and development in the city have actually left city schools with barely enough resources to function. Philadelphia United School District loses out on more revenue due to corporate tax breaks than any other school district in the country, to the tune of $112 million annually!



Why are PILOTs necessary?

Philadelphia's schools get significant funding from property taxes, but wealthier non-profits in the city (like University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University) don't pay property taxes due to their non-profit status.


Philly schools have a health crisis. More than 80% of Philadelphia's schools were found to have damaged asbestos during the 2015-16 school year. A classroom closet at Cassidy Elementary School was found to have a count of more than 4 million asbestos fibers per cm squared, in a closet where students stored backpacks and lunches. These discoveries of asbestos were followed by 37 school closures and severe staff shortages in Philadelphia. These conditions are a direct result of chronic underfunding in the Philadelphia United School District.


"Colleges are building rock climbing walls for their students while our children's classrooms are laced with asbestos."- Parent of two children in the Philadelphia's School District.


Why should wealthy non-profits pay?

Property taxes fund public schools. Philadelphia educates 10% of Pennsylvania's students yet 25% of all budget cuts have been aimed at Philadelphia's schools. Just three of the wealthiest nonprofits in the city (Penn Jefferson, Drexel) have a combined operating budget that is 5x that of the School District of Philadelphia. Drexel, specifically, is a wealthy nonprofit with over 800 million dollars in tax-exempt property.


"Students in the school district are being taught that we aren't worthy of clean buildings... we're being taught that [Penn,Drexel, and Jeff] are untouchable and we can't ask them to contribute their fair share to Philadelphia and to our public schools." - Senior at Masterman High School


How does this relate to the environment?

The environment is interconnected with any social justice movement in Philadelphia. Safety for Philly's students means a healthier city.


Universities have become more than educational institutions. They are driving development-- and gentrification-- in West Philadelphia, and other parts of the city, through public-private partnerships with real estate developers. These universities have a close relationship to displacement, underfunding and stratification in Philadelphia at large.


Many green spaces on vacant lots are being developed in conjunction and with the support of these wealthy non-profits. This development hurts the communities access to green spaces as well as their access to affordable housing and safe education. Much of the money that wealthy non-profits are exempt from paying could be going into parks and recreation as well in helping the city maintain green spaces.


If you are interested in standing together with students, community members, alumni, workers, and educators, consider supporting PILOTs demands, and sign the petition below to show your support.



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