Boston City Councilors introduce hearing order to reform PILOT community benefit offsets
BOSTON - On Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 Councilor Kenzie Bok, Council President Kim Janey, and Councilor Liz Breadon will be introducing a hearing order regarding increasing oversight, transparency, and coordination of Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) community benefit offsets in the interest of a more equitable Boston.
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.
“The City of Boston and our major private non-profit institutions are deeply interconnected,” said Councilor Bok. “Institutional expansions have brought jobs but also displacement to many parts of my district, including Mission Hill, the Fenway, and the West End. To tackle Boston’s extreme income inequality, we must ensure that financial PILOT contributions are paid in full and community benefit offsets are focused on providing the real resources needed so all Bostonians can thrive. We need more Boston Public School graduates attending the excellent universities in their neighborhoods and growing up to work in the City’s world-class hospitals and museums.”
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.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and exacerbated deep inequities in our City — including the racial wealth gap we see,” said Boston City Council President Kim Janey. “As we focus on an equitable economic recovery, I look forward to working with our non-profit and community partners to strengthen oversight and accountability in the City’s PILOT program. This will help us create a standard for robust community processes, as well as long-lasting transparent and meaningful relationships between residents and institutions.”
The PILOT Action Group’s 2018 report put forward several recommendations focused on reforming community benefits including a cohesive framework and increased community participation. “The upcoming hearing will provide an opportunity to discuss how these benefits could be most strategically targeted to meet the needs of all Boston residents and address the underlying racial and economic inequities facing our city,” explained Enid Eckstein of the PILOT Action Group.
With coordination and investment of their financial, academic, medical, and cultural resources through the PILOT community benefits process, Boston’s institutions could better address community-identified needs in pursuit of making Boston a more equitable city.
“Allston-Brighton residents, young and old, whether they grew up here or are immigrants like myself, find our neighborhood a stimulating place to live, in large measure because of our district's proximity to prominent colleges, universities, hospitals, and nonprofits,” said Councilor Breadon. “Allston-Brighton residents deserve a clear understanding of the community benefits provided by their institutional neighbors: where possible, an apples-to-apples comparison of the contributions made in lieu of property taxes. Our neighbors should also be aware of the long term impacts on these community benefits when non-profit hospitals seek to convert their status to for-profit entities.”
“In sum,” added Councilor Bok, “we need community benefit offsets to be targeted intentionally and directly at creating a more equitable Boston.”
For more information, please contact:
Emily Brown (Councilor Bok’s office) at (617) 519-7519
Suborno Chatterjee (Council President Janey’s office) at (678) 895-5287
Pam Mullaney (Councilor Breadon’s office) at 617-894-9037