Sunday, March 12, 2017

Who Rules Brookline's Beaver Country Day School?

According to a pamphlet posted on the Town of Brookline Assessor’s website, private schools in Massachusetts “MAY QUALIFY for an exemption from local taxes on real and personal property they own,” but “ownership DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY ENTITLE AN ORGANIZATION TO AN EXEMPTION, HOWEVER.” The same pamphlet also notes that “exemption from taxation is A PRIVILEGE and the organization must prove clearly and unequivocally that it qualifies.”

In the 21st-century, the “privilege” of exemption from taxation is granted to Brookline’s “non-profit” private schools like Dexter Southfield, the Park School and the Beaver Country Day School (which is located in Brookline’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood).

According to data from an Exempt Property Record Card that’s posted on the Brookline Assessor’s website, the valuation of Beaver Country Day School Inc.’s property at 791 Hammond Street, for example, increased from $24,511,800 in 2007 to $36,076,900 in 2016. Yet its Fiscal Year 2017 Real Estate tax bill is zero dollars, while the total tax bill for the owner of 764 Hammond Street (with a valuation of $1,474,200 in 2016) is $13,316 in 2017. In addition, although the valuation of the currently vacant parcel of property the private school also owns at 791 Woodland Road increased from $1,250,500 to $1,567,000 between 2007 and 2016, Beaver Country will also pay zero dollars in taxes to the Town of Brookline on this piece of real estate in 2017.

Elsewhere on Woodland Road, the tax bill for the owner of 320 Woodland Road (with a valuation of $1,782,000 in 2016) is $15,337 in 2017. Yet in 2017, Beaver Country will pay zero dollars in property taxes to Brookline on the house and real estate it owns at 333 Woodland Road (although the valuation of this property increased from $1,144,400 to $2,064,800 between 2007 and 2016).

But if Beaver Country were taxed at the same rate as most Brookline property owners who do not benefit from the same tax exemption privilege are taxed, Brookline would be requiring this private school to pay around $389,000 in taxes on its real estate. In addition, if Dexter Southfield were not benefiting from a tax exemption privilege, it would be billed for around $767,000 in taxes; and the tax payment of Park School would be around $487,000, if it were not also exempt from taxes.

Around $1,643,000 in additional tax revenue to use for things like helping to fund Brookline’s public school system could, thus, be obtained from these three “non-profit” Brookline private schools alone, if their tax exemption privileges were taken away by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Town of Brookline.

The Beaver Country Day School Inc.’s private school first opened in 1921 as a school for 65 students at Boylston Street and Buckminster Road, on the leased Jonathan White estate. But on Sept. 28, 1921 it also purchased for $13,640 the 17-acre wooded campus site at the corner of Hammond Street and Woodland Road in Brookline’s Chestnut Hill section that its school currently occupies.

Around $1 million was then spent to construct buildings for the school (which was then a 4th to 8th grade school for female and male pupils and a 9th to 12th grade secondary school for only female students) on its newly acquired Brookline property; and by 1930 the construction project on Beaver Country’s campus was completed. The additional parcel of vacant land at 791 Woodland Road, whose value is now assessed to be $1,567,000, was then purchased on Dec. 29, 1932 for $100.

By 1945, the number of students enrolled at Beaver Country had increased to 300 students; and on June 2, 1961 the house that the private school currently owns at 333 Woodland Road, whose value is now assessed to be $2,064,800, was purchased by Beaver Country Day School Inc. for $100.

After 1970, Beaver Country began admitting male students into its 9th to 12th grade secondary school that previously only admitted female students. And today, the school is a co-educational private day school that enrolls around 470 students from 6th grade to 12th grade: 30 students in 6th grade; 50 students in 7th grade; 50 students in 8th grade, 85 students in 9th grade; 85 students in 10th grade; 85 students in 11th grade; and 85 students in 12th grade.

The parents of most students enrolled at Beaver Country were required to pay $45,500 in tuition to the private school for the 2016-2017 academic year; and between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, Beaver Country Day School Inc.’s total revenues of $28,149,811 exceeded its total expenses of $24,728,469 by $3,431,342, according to its Form 990 financial filing for 2014. In addition, the net assets of Beaver Country increased by $2,768,587—from $22,813,093 to $25,571,680—during the same period.

Nearly $13 million of the over $28 million that Beaver Country collected in revenues between July 2014 and June 2015 was spent on salaries for its 413 employees, according to its financial filing. The private school’s “Head of School,” Peter Hutton, for example, was paid an annual “reportable compensation” of $405,527 and “other compensation” of $102,047 (which apparently included the annual monetary value of being provided with the Beaver Country-owned house at 333 Woodland Road in which he lived), according to the same financial filing. In addition, between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, Beaver Country paid $2,166,465 to RAD Sports of Rockland, Massachusetts for “Turf.”

Although the value of Beaver Country’s endowment fund only increased from $11,647,966 to $11,674,659 between July 2014 and June 2015, the school earned an investment income of $1,160,639, including the $736,000 that it gained from the sale of $5,809,352 worth of securities. As of June 30, 2015, over $3 million of Beaver Country’s endowment was still invested in an off-shore Cayman Islands-Based Hedge Fund Investment; but, as its financial filing noted, “private foreign investment co. rules do not apply to tax exempt organizations,” and zero in federal income taxes were paid between 2014 and 2015.

Over $8 million of endowment funds were also invested in Equity mutual funds and fixed income funds. Yet on Feb. 1, 2013 the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency still issued $15,282,914 in tax exempt bonds to help “refinance” Beaver Country’s private school debt.

Part of this debt may have been generated from cost of building a visual and performing arts facility on its Brookline campus in early 21st-century. Beaver Country’s administration apparently used cheaper non-unionized workers to build this visual and performing arts facility, rather than unionized workers. As Lawrence Fahey noted in a July 17, 2003 Brookline Tab article, then-New England Council of Carpenters administrator Mark Erlich “said his organization” had “been in contact with Beaver Country Day School’s administrators since winter 2002, when bids for the project were being accepted;” but though it “urged the school to use a union company, Beaver selected the only non-union bid submitted.”

Although Beaver Country pays zero in property taxes, according to an Apr. 9, 1998 Tab article by Jeremy Pawloski, in the late 1990’s, “Beaver Country Day School’s two soccer fields” were “used by the town in the fall and spring, and its baseball diamond is used from April to June.” Yet in 2017 a community benefit like establishing a free tuition and/or open admissions policy for all 6th to 12th graders whose parents are Brookline residents, , for example, has still not been provided by the school’s board of trustees.

The Beaver Country Day School Inc.’s board of trustees which “plays a central role in overseeing the school’s operations and in planning Beaver’s future,” according to the school’s website, has apparently not been an “eager beaver” about using its annual revenue surplus to help fund Brookline’s public school system. Nor has the school’s board apparently been an “eager beaver” to pay property taxes at the same rate as the neighboring homeowners who also own real estate on Hammond Street.

One reason might be that, instead of including members of Brookline’s democratically-elected School Committee on its board of trustees, Beaver Country’s board includes some well-heeled folks associated with external organizations whose priorities do not include helping to fund public grade or secondary schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or providing community benefits to Brookline.

Boston-based Archipelago Ventures Ltd. private investment/speculation firm founder, Tomes Bergstrand, for example, is president of Beaver Country’s board of trustees. Another member of Beaver Country’s board of trustees, Charles Argyle, is Global Equities Portfolio Manager at Wellington Management stock investment/speculation firm (that speculates with and manages $929 billion in assets of its 2,150 clients from 13 offices around the globe, including its Boston headquarters office at 280 Congress Street, according to the Wellington Management website).

Westfield Capital Management CEO, President and Chief Investment Officer William Muggia is also a Beaver Country trustee. His speculation/investment firm “provides investment management service to institutional and high net-worth investors” like Clark University; and it speculates with/manages over $12 billion in assets from its office at One Financial Center in Boston, according to Westfield Capital Management’s website. Another Beaver Country trustee, Steven Kaitz is a Co-CEO of New England’s largest independent supplier of building materials, the National Lumber Company, which does business in the Town of Newton on Needham Street.

Besides sitting on the private school’s board of trustees, Beaver Country Trustee Paula Price (a former Chief Financial Officer at Stop & Shop’s Ahold USA parent company) has also been sitting on the corporate boards of Dollar General Corporation, Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, Western Digital Corporation, Accenture PLC and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, as well as on the Museum of Fine Arts board, in recent years.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation board member Josh Kraft, coincidentally, sits next to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts board member Price on Beaver Country’s board. Like his brother, Massachusetts General Hospital Trustee and Kraft Group President Jonathan Kraft (who’s also a trustee of Brookline’s Dexter Southfield private school), Beaver Country Trustee Josh Kraft is the son of Robert Kraft: the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots who also owns a stake in the Ultimate Fighting Championship [UFC] mixed martial arts promotion company—and whose personal wealth was estimated to be $5.2 billion in 2016 by Forbes magazine.

Within his family’s Kraft Group business, Josh Kraft holds position of president of New England Patriots Charitable Foundation—which collected $3,695,431 in contributions (including 116 separate contributions from individuals, corporations or family foundations that exceeded $5,000), earned $326,035 more in revenues than it spent, paid only $1,147 in state and federal taxes and made only one grant of $1,000 to a Brookline-based organization in 2015, according to its Form 990 financial filing for 2015.

Another Beaver Country trustee, David Fubrini, also is a trustee of both University of Massachusetts and MITRE research/development organization, which received $281 million in Pentagon contracts in 2014; making MITRE the 6th-largest recipient of Pentagon contracts in Massachusetts in that year. Coincidentally, Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., Retired U.S. Air Force General C. Robert Kehler and Retired General Montgomery Meigs also sit on MITRE’s board of trustees; and also, coincidentally, Beaver Country Trustee Fubrini is past chair of the board of trustees of Brookline’s Park School private grade school.

Working-class and middle-class residents of Brookline may not be able to create enough political pressure in Massachusetts to require “non-profit” tax-exempt private schools like Dexter Southfield, Park School and Beaver Country to pay a fair share of local property taxes in 2017. But perhaps more needed funding for Brookline’s public school system could be obtained in 2017 if Massachusetts began taxing more heavily the external organizations in which trustees or directors of Brookline’s private school system currently hold executive or board member positions?

No comments:

Post a Comment