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Order for a hearing regarding increasing oversight, transparency, and coordination of PILOT community-benefit offsets

Filed with Council President Janey and Councilor Breadon

Under the PILOT program, tax-exempt educational, medical, and cultural institutions owning tax-exempt property valued at over $15 million are expected to make PILOT payments. In Fiscal Year 2020, 47 institutions were identified by the City of Boston Assessing Department to participate in this program. 

Institutions participating in PILOT can utilize community benefit offsets to deduct from their assessed PILOT payments, which is generally restricted to 50% of their requested PILOT contribution. As of November 3, 2020, for Fiscal Year 2020, community benefit offsets accounted for $52,911,627 of the $112,242,116 total requested PILOT contributions. With only $34,390,529 of PILOT contributions made in cash, community benefit offsets accounted for about 61% of all PILOT contributions. 

Given that these institutions rely on the city for public infrastructure and services, community benefits should serve the same core needs of Boston residents as would be supported through the City’s General Fund. Furthermore, community benefits should contribute to the overarching goal of addressing Boston’s enormous wealth and gaping racial and economic inequality.

PILOT Revaluation

In August 2020, as the Chair of the Boston’s City Council PILOT Reform Committee, I sent a letter alongside many of my Council colleagues asking Mayor Marty Walsh to update the valuations for the real estate held by PILOT-paying nonprofits in the City of Boston. The original valuations that form the basis for the City’s Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) program were done in 2009, more than a decade ago. In October 2020, Boston’s Assessing Department has now committed to a full data review and revaluation in 2021. 

I’m thankful to the coalition of community partners who form the PILOT Action Group for their ongoing multiyear advocacy to make the PILOT program as robust a mechanism as possible for partnership between our large non-profit institutions and the urban neighborhoods in which they are embedded.

While there is more to do to build on the PILOT’s program success in pursuit of a more equitable Boston, this commitment to revaluation in 2021 is a great step in regard to a key program that supports so many essential city services.

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