Distributed April 10, 1995
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel
Tax Break Abandoned 30 Years Ago
Brown asks cities and towns to drop mention of personal tax exemption
Brown University has formally requested that all Rhode Island cities and towns remove from their tax bills any mention of a personal property tax exemption for Brown faculty. That exemption, granted by King George III in 1764, was voluntarily abandoned by the University in 1965. Faculty hired since then must waive the exemption as a condition of employment. Continued mention of that exemption causes confusion and resentment.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. —Brown University today sent formal requests to tax assessors and assessment boards in 37 Rhode Island cities and towns, asking them to stop listing an abandoned personal property tax exemption on annual tax bills if they still do so. The property tax exemption, granted by King George III in the Brown Charter of 1764, allowed full professors at Brown to exempt the first $10,000 in assessed value from their property taxes. The exemption was voluntarily abandoned by the University in 1965; professors hired since then have waived the exemption as a condition of employment.
Nine professors who were “grandfathered” in when Brown abandoned the measure still claim the exemption. The total statewide value of this exemption is $1,774.88 annually; none of the professors lives in any of the 37 towns to which Brown sent its request. The nine remaining exemptions will expire in coming years.
“Every year, property owners in these cities and towns receive a tax bill that lists a professorship at Brown as a possible exemption from personal property taxes,” said Robert A. Reichley, executive vice president. “Since no Brown professors currently claim this exemption in these towns and none ever will, continuing to list the exemption as an option can only lead to confusion or resentment among property owners. Brown abandoned the exemption three decades ago; it is time for these communities to put the matter to rest.”
The text of the University’s letter follows.
April 10, 1995
Dear [Tax Assessor]:
I am writing to provide you with an update regarding the property tax exemption offered to Brown professors.
As you may know, Brown's charter of 1764 includes a provision that allows full Brown professors to exempt the first $10,000 in assessed value from their property taxes. In 1965, the Brown Corporation voluntarily adopted the position that no employees of Brown should enjoy preferential tax treatment of any kind, and required all new professors, as a condition of employment, to waive this exemption. No exceptions have been made, and no new professor has taken advantage of the exemption since that time.
While there are still nine professors who had claimed this exemption and were “grandfathered” when the new policy was adopted, none of them live in [your town]. Currently the total tax value, statewide, of these nine exemptions is $1,774.88, and these exemptions will expire when the professors retire, resign, move out of state, or pass away.
As there are not now, and will not be in the future, any Brown professors in [your town] taking advantage of this exemption, we are requesting that you remove this provision on your annual tax bills if you currently include it. We believe this would avoid any confusion such mention might cause to Brown faculty or others living in [your town]. We appreciate your attention to this matter, and if Brown can be of any assistance on this or other matters, please don’t hesitate to contact us.