City asks for payments; most colleges don’t pay in full
For the fifth year in a row the majority of colleges in Boston did not pay the city the full amount it requested to help cover the cost of municipal services, newly released city data show.
Of the 19 colleges and universities in Boston, 14 paid less than what was requested in fiscal year 2017, which ended in June.
None of the eight colleges with the most valuable real estate paid the full amount requested by the city, including Harvard, Boston University, and Northeastern. Tufts is the only major university that did.
“It’s disappointing, obviously, that these schools continue to not do it, in particular Northeastern,” said Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim.
Harvard paid 53 percent of its assessment. Northeastern paid 24 percent, and Boston College 19 percent.
Under a six-year-old program — called PILOT, for Payment in Lieu of Tax — the city asks nonprofits with more than $15 million worth of tax-
exempt property in Boston to help offset the cost of police and fire protection, snow removal, and other services. The payments are voluntary.
The total value of the land owned by the 19 colleges is $7.2 billion, according to city data. If that property was taxable, the city would be entitled to $223.7 million. Instead, the city requested PILOT payments totaling $26.9 million from colleges and universities and received $13.4 million, data show.
Zakim said the PILOT payments requested are reasonable because they take into account the intangible assets the universities provide the city. But, he said, the city relies primarily on property taxes to pay for city services, and when so much city land is tax-exempt, it makes things difficult.
“City services cost money, and everyone benefits from the services,” he said.
The city also requests PILOT payments from a few private high schools as well as large medical and cultural institutions. The Boston Symphony Orchestra and WGBH paid in full. So did Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary.
Among those that paid nothing: Franciscan Hospital, Joslin Diabetes Center, the Museum of Science and the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Boston Children’s Museum, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Overall, the city received $32.4 million of the $49.5 million it requested in PILOT payments from all institutions, or about 65 percent. That is about $300,000 more than it received last year.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh called the PILOT program a “vital partnership used to fund important city programming.” In a statement Friday, he said the city is encouraged by increased participation and is evaluating the program.
“We will continue to work with all institutions to maintain and increase this program’s success,” the mayor’s statement said.
Five colleges paid in full: Boston Architectural College, MCPHS University, New England College of Optometry, the Showa Institute, and Tufts.
Most schools paid in part. The city’s smaller colleges generally paid a smaller percentage of their assessment. Emerson College paid 15 percent and Emmanuel College paid 11 percent, according to the city.
Fisher College, New England Conservatory, Simmons College, and Wheelock College paid nothing.
For decades, Boston negotiated payments individually with nonprofits when they built a facility or acquired property. But starting in fiscal year 2012, the city established a structured system and began to incrementally increase the amounts requested from the institutions.
Institutions can fulfill up to half of their obligation through a “community benefits credit” — demonstrating that they provide services that benefit Boston residents.
The rules were drafted by a task force that included representatives from an assortment of nonprofits, including leaders of city colleges.
The schools that paid in full generally have done so for the past six years. Other schools, like Northeastern, paid 100 percent five years ago but their payments have dwindled, data show.
Simmons paid 100 percent of the city’s request in fiscal year 2012, but this year paid zero. BU also paid in full the first year of the program and this year paid 76 percent.
Harvard spokeswoman Melodie Jackson said the school tries to strike a balance between paying taxes on its taxable property, making some PILOT payments, and funding programs in the neighborhoods where it owns land.
According to the school, it also paid $7.8 million in taxes in fiscal 2017. Harvard is in the midst of a major expansion into Allston and now owns more land in Boston than it does in Cambridge.
A spokesman for Boston College said the school does not participate in the PILOT program. He said the school pays $335,250 to the city of Boston and $125,000 to the city of Newton for fire protection services.
“As a Jesuit, Catholic university committed to service, we believe that the best way we can assist the city of Boston is through the more than $30 million in community benefits that we provide to the city and its residents each year through scholarships, jobs, volunteer outreach, community grants, and the public and private grants we procure for Boston’s public and parochial schools,” spokesman Jack Dunn wrote in an e-mail on Friday.
Emerson College President Lee Pelton defended its low payment by mentioning other ways the school has contributed to the city.
Emerson is in the third year of a four-year, $270 million facilities upgrade that includes a new dormitory and renovation of an old dormitory that by 2019 will remove 700 students from off-campus apartments, Pelton said in a statement.
He also said the school’s partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group will revitalize the Theater District, create new jobs, and help other local businesses.
|Nonprofit||Type||Would owe, if taxable||Requested||% paid|
|Mass General Hospital||Medical||$55.44m||$7.04m||98%|
|Beth Israel Deaconess||Medical||$25.24m||$3.17m||100%|
|Brigham and Women's Hospital||Medical||$24.55m||$3.09m||98%|
|Tufts Medical Center||Medical||$12.45m||$1.54m||77%|
|Museum of Fine Arts||Cultural||$8.77m||$1.06m||6%|
|Dana Farber Cancer Institute||Medical||$7.7m||$927k||100%|
|Boston Children's Hospital||Medical||$20.51m||$808k||100%|
|Wentworth Institute of Technology||College||$6.46m||$769k||49%|
|Spaulding Rehab Hospital||Medical||$4.78m||$553k||98%|
|Boston Medical Center||Medical||$8.69m||$519k||100%|
|New England Baptist Hospital||Medical||$4.1m||$466k||80%|
|Mass Eye & Ear Infirmary||Medical||$3.63m||$405k||100%|
|Joslin Diabetes Center||Medical||$2.68m||$284k||0%|
|New England Aquarium||Cultural||$2.18m||$219k||0%|
|Roxbury Latin School||School||$1.64m||$150k||0%|
|Institute of Contemporary Art||Cultural||$1.15m||$88k||0%|
|Museum of Science||Cultural||$1.08m||$79k||0%|
|New England Conservatory||College||$923k||$59k||0%|
|Boston Symphony Orchestra||Cultural||$906k||$56k||100%|
|Hebrew Rehabilitation Center||Medical||$1.3m||$53k||48%|
|Boston College High School||School||$844k||$48k||0%|
|New England College of Optometry||College||$778k||$40k||100%|
|Boston Architectural College||College||$592k||$16k||100%|