Connecticut College announces $100,000 donation to New London

New London — Connecticut College will donate $100,000 to the city this year, ending speculation about whether the owner of one of the city’s largest tax-exempt properties would continue a tradition of contributing to the city.

College President Katherine Bergeron and New London Mayor Michael Passero announced the news in a joint statement Thursday, calling the donation a “recognition of their longstanding partnership.”

Passero said he considers the $100,000 a "good-faith payment for this year," since the two sides could not come to a multiyear agreement. He said he planned to continue discussions with Bergeron about a multiyear voluntary payment agreement.

“This is a very generous donation. The City works well with the college and we are especially proud of the quality of municipal services, especially by our public safety agencies, which we provide to the campus,” Passero said in a statement.

“We appreciate that President Bergeron recognizes our efforts and is stepping forward to support the city in this meaningful way,” Passero said.

More than 44 percent of the city’s real property is tax-exempt and the city has pushed for state legislation that would limit or put a freeze on new tax exemptions for nonprofits. It also has called for voluntary donations from Conn, Mitchell College and Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

About $350 million of the $860.6 million in tax-exempt property in the city is attributed to the two colleges and hospital. Mitchell College, with nearly 70 acres on the tax-exempt list, signed a four-year agreement with the city last year that provides a yearly payment starting at $29,000 in 2017 that rises to $32,000 in 2020.

The city expects $4.45 million in payment in lieu of taxes funds from the state this year for the two private colleges and L+M Hospital. It gets $1 million per year under special state legislation to compensate for hosting the Coast Guard Academy, Passero said.

In addition to state funds received through the payment in lieu of taxes program, the city collected a total of about $100,000 from Connecticut College over the past decade. That agreement and the annual payments, which stemmed from a tax-exempt dispute over a portion of the college campus, ended last year.

Bergeron said in the statement that this year’s gift would “enhance the ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship of the college with the city.”

“We are delighted to be able to support the city with this gift, which demonstrates our commitment and complements and extends our partnerships within the New London community,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron also outlined benefits, aside from money, that the college provides to the city: 50,000 hours of donated student service time each year and partnerships with more than 50 local organizations “to address challenges in education, health and wellness, affordable housing, community development, the environment and food security.”

Connecticut College students serve as aides, tutors and student-teachers in the New London school system and collaborate with Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School on the Enrich Mentor Program — work to advance the college attainment levels of more than 100 students annually in the city by exposing them to the arts, languages and sciences.

One of the newest initiatives by the college is the Global New London Intensive Summer Practicum, a program designed to connect first- and second-year students at the college to community-based organizations, including Start Fresh, Brigaid, Safe Futures and the Homeless Hospitality Center. The program provides experiential learning to illuminate the global framework of local issues and to stimulate future collaboration and research.

The college also emphasizes that the public has access to the college's 750-acre campus, including the library, athletic facilities and the Connecticut College Arboretum. Connecticut College is the third largest employer in the city and more than 20 percent of the college’s employees live in New London.

“Faculty, staff and visitors have an estimated direct economic impact of $50 million annually, while the college also spends $30 million in goods and services in the New London region and approximately $300,000 in financial aid for college students from New London,” the statement reads.

Passero said the City Council ultimately will decide how to use the $100,000 but it would not be included in the recently passed budget because it is a one-time revenue.

g.smith@theday.com

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