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New Bill May Tax MIT Land

By Jeremy Hylton
Editor in Chief

A bill proposed by two state officials could cost MIT millions of dollars in municipal taxes.

State Sen. Robert Travaglini, who represents eastern Cambridge, and State Rep. John McDonough introduced a bill that would impose a one-half percent tax on the value of currently tax-exempt land belonging to non-profit institutions, such as private schools and hospitals.

MIT and Harvard University would be the hardest hit institutions in the city. MIT owns 140 acres of tax-exempt land in Cambridge. The land, which represents about 5 percent of the entire city, is used for primarily educational purposes. Together, MIT and Harvard own more than 20 percent of the land in the city.

MIT is already one of the largest property taxpayers in the city, owning 65 acres of taxable land. The land includes the University Park development, between the campus and Central Square.

Each year MIT makes a payment to the city in lieu of property taxes. Under the written agreement between Cambridge and the Institute, MIT makes a yearly donation of just under $1 million.

A candidate for Cambridge City Council, Tom Weed, estimates that the tax revenue from MIT and Harvard would be approximately $10 million.

The proposed legislation could also bring added revenue to Boston. Travaglini's office estimates that the bill could increase Boston tax revenues by $30 million.

The bill, however, is a long way from becoming a law. It has not been assigned to a legislative committee yet. The proposed law would only give municipalities the right to impose the excise tax. Even if the bill were passed, Cambridge would have to act to impose the tax on MIT.

Robert Sullivan, vice president of the Association of Independent Colleges and University in Massachusetts, a lobbying group for institute of higher education, told The Cambridge Tab that he had not studied the proposal. "I'll take it seriously when it's a bill. We go through these town-gown strains all the time," he said.