Chafee signs Bryant University tax-exempt legislation

Jul 11, 2013

Gov. Lincoln Chafee has signed into law legislation that will require Bryant University and Smithfield town officials to negotiate reimbursement for the university’s use of town police, fire and rescue services.

The university and its president, former U.S. Rep. Ron Machtley, have argued strenuously against the legislation, saying Bryant already contributes to the town and generates $17 in local economic activity. But town officials and Smithfield lawmakers say it is isn’t fair for Bryant to charge town taxpayers for services used by the university and its students.

``I believe the town of Smithfield and the university have an opportunity to collaborate and work out an agreement beneficial to both entities,’’ Chafee said in a statement. ``Fostering a strong relationship takes a lot of work and requires both parties to participate wholeheartedly.’’

The legislation sponsored by Sen. Stephen Archambault and Rep. Thomas Winfield, both Democrats who represent the town. It would alter the non-profit tax status of Bryant if the town and university cannot come to a payment in lieu of tax agreement. Bryant has threatened legal action against the measure.

``This legislation is not about taxing a non-profit or undermining IRS protections, but it is about bringing both partners to the table to strike a balanced and fair relationship,’’ said Chafee.