Press Release

Press Release During Tour of State-owned Land in Western Mass., Auditor Bump, Local Officials Call on State to Make PILOT Program More Equitable

The State-owned Land PILOT Program provides reimbursement payments to municipalities for tax-exempt land owned by the Commonwealth.
For immediate release:
7/27/2021
  • Office of the State Auditor
  • Division of Local Mandates

Media Contact for During Tour of State-owned Land in Western Mass., Auditor Bump, Local Officials Call on State to Make PILOT Program More Equitable

Noah Futterman

BostonThis past Friday, July 23, 2021, State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump joined state and local elected officials and stakeholders for a tour of several sites in Franklin County to showcase the impact of the state’s payments in-lieu of taxes (PILOT) program for state-owned land (SOL) on smaller communities, as outlined in a recent report conducted by the Office of the State Auditor’s Division of Local Mandates (DLM). The SOL PILOT Program provides reimbursement payments to municipalities for tax-exempt land owned by the Commonwealth. During the tour, participants discussed how the current state of the SOL PILOT program is underfunded and disadvantages communities in the western part of the state with slowly increasing, stagnant or declining property values in favor of larger, wealthier communities in the east.

The tour included two stops; the first was at the Mt. Sugarloaf State Reservation in the Town of Deerfield, and the second was at the Dubuque State Forrest in the Town of Hawley. Officials in attendance between both stops included state Senator Adam Hinds, state Rep. Paul Mark, state Rep. Natalie Blais, state Rep. Susannah Whipps, Franklin Regional Council of Governments Executive Director Linda Dunlavy and Finance Director Claire McGinnis, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission Principal Environmental Planner Patty Gambarini and Manager of Public Affairs Patrick Beaudry as well as local officials from Charlemont, Chester, Chesterfield, Deerfield, Goshen, Hawley, Montague, Sunderland and Worthington.

From left to right: Senator Adam Hinds, Representative Susannah Whipps, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, Representative Natalie Blais at Mt. Sugarloaf in Deerfield.
From left to right: Senator Adam Hinds, Representative Susannah Whipps, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, Representative Natalie Blais at Mt. Sugarloaf in Deerfield.

“These recreational resources like Mt. Sugarloaf and Dubuque are what really constitute public goods. They are the reason that so many people live and travel in Western Massachusetts, but with a public good, there's a public cost that has to be borne," Bump said during the tour. "It is the estimation of my office, that although this underfunding doesn't technically constitute an unfunded mandate, it is nonetheless the state-imposed burden on municipalities to take lands off the tax rolls, and therefore, the state needs to make good on its promise to reimburse communities that are losing that revenue.”

During the tour, Bump said the report conducted by her office showed the PILOT program's lack of funding but also indicated that smaller communities that aren't economically growing at the same rate as heavily populated eastern communities are being disadvantaged.

“The funding formula, not just the total appropriation, needs to be changed in order to make this program more equitable. We want to speak loud enough here in Western Mass., so that the folks back in Boston hear," Bump said about the issues that were brought to light on Friday.

Auditor Bump speaking with attendees during the stop at the Dubuque State Forest in Hawley.
Auditor Bump speaking with attendees during the stop at the Dubuque State Forest in Hawley.

Bump noted that although the State Legislature has voted to increase the SOL PILOT appropriation for Fiscal Year 2022 – from $31 million to $35 million – the program is still underfunded by nearly $15 million. Under the program’s funding formula, reimbursements are partly based on each municipality’s state-owned land value. The study notes that communities with decreasing, slowly increasing, or stagnant property values have seen reductions in their PILOT payments.

DLM’s report that was released in December 2020 made several recommendations that could be implemented to protect municipalities with reduced land and PILOT reimbursement values. Earlier this year, Auditor Bump worked with members of the State Legislature in filing a bill to fix the SOL PILOT Program.

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Media Contact for During Tour of State-owned Land in Western Mass., Auditor Bump, Local Officials Call on State to Make PILOT Program More Equitable

Office of the State Auditor 

The Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA) conducts audits, investigations, and studies to promote accountability and transparency, improve performance, and make government work better.

Division of Local Mandates 

DLM responds to requests from local government leaders to determine if a state law is an unfunded mandate on municipalities. In addition, we serve as a source of information on issues harming municipal budgets, and provide recommendations to address those issues.
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