Date October 12, 2023
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Leaders from Providence, Brown formally ink voluntary payment agreements

Two agreements establish Brown and Providence’s other colleges and universities among the nation’s most generous voluntary financial contributors to the city in which they operate.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Leaders from the City of Providence and Brown University convened at City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 12, to formally sign agreements that establish Providence’s four colleges and universities among the nation’s most generous voluntary financial contributors to the city in which they operate.

Mayor Brett P. Smiley, City Council President Rachel Miller and Brown President Christina H. Paxson each signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) outlining a set of financial commitments from Brown to the city. Through that agreement and a separate memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and all four colleges and universities, Brown will contribute nearly $175 million in direct voluntary payments over the next 20 years.

In total — through the two agreements approved by the City Council on Oct. 5 — Brown University, Johnson and Wales University, Providence College and the Rhode Island School of Design will contribute $223.5 million in direct payments to the city from 2024 to 2043, as well as annual community contributions valued at a total of an additional $177.5 million.

The approval and execution of the agreements followed months of research, engagement and collaboration between the mayor’s office and four higher education institutions. In brief remarks at Thursday’s event, Smiley said he considers the agreements to be one of the most significant accomplishments during his first year in office and a model partnership that can serve as a precedent for other city leaders across the country.

“It was really important… that not only were we able to reach an agreement that was meaningfully better and more generous, but one that could be held up as a national model,” Smiley said. “That’s what we believe we accomplished here. I look forward to getting phone calls from colleague mayors around the country and hearing from others to say, how did you do it in Providence?”

It was really important… that not only were we able to reach an agreement that was meaningfully better and more generous, but one that could be held up as a national model. That’s what we believe we accomplished here.

Mayor Brett Smiley
Mayor Brett Smiley at podium

Brown University’s contributions of nearly $175 million in direct payments over 20 years will more than double its annual payments to the city, strengthening its commitment to supporting the well-being of the local community through education, research, community engagement, climate resilience and economic development.

In addition, the University will provide community contributions valued at an average of $6.4 million annually, which support investments in priorities such as K-12 education, community programming and scholarships for local residents. The combined financial impact of voluntary payments and community contributions from Brown will total $303.3 million in benefits to the city between 2024 and 2043.

Paxson said on Thursday that beyond the direct payments, the agreements will create opportunities for Brown to take on more projects that contribute to the city's growth and vitality.

"I’m even more excited about the future because this is not a completely transactional agreement — this is an agreement that gives us incentives to do even more on behalf of the city,” Paxson said. “We're looking forward to real estate development in the Jewelry District, which will add more property to the city tax rolls. We're looking forward to being an anchor partner in other development projects. This is an exciting time.”

The new agreements bolster the long-standing partnership between the city and its four institutions of higher education. The MOU outlines five areas that the city and the schools will address collaboratively, with all or a substantial majority of the voluntary payments earmarked for city investment and expenditure in the following areas of priority: pre-K-12 education; equity, diversity and inclusion; community safety and well-being; promotion of the City of Providence as a safe, vibrant and inviting place to live, work and learn; and climate change and resiliency and adaptation infrastructure and policy.

The agreements also create channels for identifying and addressing key areas of concern among city residents, including a Quality of Life working group through which city leaders and the higher education institutions can proactively partner on bringing resources and expertise to bear on developing and implementing solutions.

Miller said the agreements set a new standard for how city leaders and its nonprofits can work together for the greater good of the Providence community.

“This agreement raises the bar for our relationship between not just these four nonprofit education institutions, but how the city works with all of our nonprofit institutional partners," Miller said at Thursday’s event. "It's something that we as a city collectively can be proud of both for the work we have to do today throughout the rest of this term, but also for future residents and future city leaders. So thank you to Brown University, Johnson and Wales, RISD and Providence College for coming to the table to negotiate with us and for recognizing the great benefits that we have for each other and the future success of the city.”

The first voluntary payment from each of the colleges and universities — $5.075 million from Brown and a total of $7 million across the four schools — will be made to the city within 60 days of the MOU’s execution. Per the terms of the MOU, the city will report annually on the impacts to the Providence community of the institutions’ voluntary financial payments.