Review: Colleges in Boston falling short when it comes to payments in lieu of taxes

Most colleges in Boston have failed to pay the city the full amount agreed upon to help pay for municipal services, a review has found.

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On the other hand, the review by The Boston Globe (http://bit.ly/12Qi7hu ) found that a majority of hospitals met the recommended amounts.

Under a three-year-old program, the city asks nonprofits with more than $15 million worth of tax-exempt property to make voluntary PILOT contributions — or payments in lieu of taxes.

The money is supposed to offset the nonprofits' use of city services, including police and fire protection.

Fifteen of the 19 colleges did not pay amounts requested by the city during the fiscal year that ended in June. Northeastern University, which was asked for $2.5 million, gave nothing. Northeastern had given $886,000 in each of the previous two fiscal years.

Northeastern calculated that it contributes more than $30 million annually in community programs and benefits.

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Richard Doherty, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, pointed out that the payments are voluntary.

"The city has recognized that these institutions make contributions far above what the formula might recommend in terms of community benefits — scholarships to Boston residents, partnerships with the schools and community centers, partnerships regarding athletic fields and facilities and arts facilities," he said.

City Councilor Stephen Murphy criticized colleges that failed to reach their benchmarks.

"They were all in the room, and they all agreed to this," Murphy said.

Mayor Martin Walsh, who inherited the PILOT program, is committed to keeping it, a spokeswoman said.

The city asked 49 institutions for a combined $34.6 million and received $24.9 million in the latest fiscal year, an increase of 64 percent over the previous year.

If not for their tax-exempt status, the organizations would owe the city a combined $425 million in annual property taxes, according to city figures.

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com