Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and his aides certainly don’t see it that way. But the seven tax-exempt institutions they’re targeting for a bigger contribution to Providence’s budget employ one in five workers there, making each of them one of its main employers, city documents show.
The gang of seven are Brown University, Lifespan (Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals), Care New England (Women & Infants and Butler hospitals), CharterCARE (Roger Williams Medical Center and St. Joseph Health Services), Providence College, Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design.
Those seven tax-exempts employed 20,837 workers in Providence in 2011, which was 19.5% of total city employment, according to R.I. Economic Development Corporation data city auditors prepared for bondholders. Brown is the city’s No. 1 employer with 5,162 workers, or 4.83% of total city employment.
The seven’s share of employment in Providence has held about steady during the recession despite an overall reduction in their payrolls. They employed 22,104 Providence workers in 2008, which was 19.7% of city employment at the time, according to R.I. Department of Labor and Training data.
Of course, just because the nonprofits employ a lot of workers in Providence doesn’t necessarily mean those people wind up contributing a lot to the city’s budget. They don’t pay income tax to Providence, unlike in New York City, which levies an income tax on residents and city workers. They may not live in Providence at all.
“The mayor has said many times that he recognizes and appreciates the important contributions that our tax-exempt institutions make to the culture and economic life of our city and the health care of our city,” Taveras spokesman David Ortiz said.
“But that does not mean that we do not have to resolve the issue that the mayor has raised in recent months, and certainly in the past week, regarding the city’s very real need for the tax-exempts to do more to pay for the services that they receive,” he said.
The same city documents show a retreat by for-profit employers in Providence.
The number of private companies ranked among Providence’s principal employers fell from eight in 2008 to six in 2011. The number of workers they employed plunged by more than half, from 9,910 to 4,020.
Five of Providence’s top eight private business employers in 2008 had disappeared from the list by 2011: Bank of America, Citizens Bank, Verizon, Pinkerton Northeast/Securitas and Textron. Three new private employers were added: Mars 2000, H. Carr & Sons Inc. and Employment 2000.
The only three private companies that appeared on both lists were GTECH, A.H. Belo’s Providence Journal Co. division and National Grid. GTECH lost four jobs, The Journal Co. added 135 and National Grid axed 400.
Other major employers on the 2011 list included Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and AAA Southern New England. Blue Cross and AAA are registered as nonprofits, while Rhode Island College is part of state government.
(photo: Brown University)