March 15, 2015
Dear President Gutmann,
In 2011, you attested that “nothing is more important to the health and vitality of a community than the quality of its public schools.” As you know, Philadelphia schools are in crisis. Our students face huge class sizes, local school closures, and a severe shortage of basic services like school nurses and guidance counselors.
Our city is also struggling to fund public services. Our fire stations face brownouts. Snow remains uncleared for days at a time, even on many major roads. Basic public infrastructure is in dire need of repair.
Meanwhile, although the University of Pennsylvania sits on a massive and valuable plot of city land—and though its students benefit from and rely on city services—it pays next to nothing in property taxes due to its nonprofit tax status.
We now appeal to you not only as someone with the power and authority to help, but also as a fellow Philadelphian and neighbor. Philadelphia has a larger proportion of tax-exempt land than any other major city in the country, and mega-nonprofit landholdings continue to expand each year. As a result, the city loses huge amounts of potential income each year—the property tax income that would otherwise go towards schools and essential services.
We write to ask you to lead the University of Pennsylvania in setting a moral example for other mega-nonprofits by agreeing to enter into a PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) program with Philadelphia. Annual payments of just 0.1% of your budget would have little impact on the operation of the university, but could change lives for many students and residents in the city.
President Gutmann, as Philadelphia community leaders, we know first hand that the city needs your help. Can we count on you to rise to the occasion?
Philadelphia Jobs with Justice
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
Teacher Action Group
Americans for Democratic Action (Philadelphia chapter)
Women's Community Revitalization Project
Working Families PA
Parents United for Public Education
Media Mobilization Project
Philadelphia National Organization of Women
Philadelphia Unemployment Project