'Community benefits' under PILOT are the focus of new Janey task force

Property tax exemptions for non-profit organizations, a group that includes small charity groups but also big institutions like colleges, insurers, and hospitals, have long been a point of contention in some circles, and on Monday Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey formed a task force to look into the situation.

The group will be charged with revisiting and modernizing the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program for charitable institutions in Boston, including many with sizeable balance sheets and real estate footprints.

The mayor’s office said the initial charge will be to “improve and strengthen” the community benefits component of the PILOT program, which spins off some revenue for the city to use to fund public services.

In fiscal 2020, according to the mayor’s office, 37 institutions submitted PILOT community benefits reports totaling $153.2 million and also received $52.9 million in community benefits credit.

Under the city’s existing PILOT program, credits for community benefits allow institutions to offset a portion of their cash payments by “demonstrating and documenting ways they support the city and its residents through their charitable missions.” Currently, those credits are capped, the mayor’s office said.

“I am launching the 2021 PILOT Task Force as part of my commitment to lead an equitable recovery in the City of Boston,” Janey said in a statement. “New voices and new frameworks create new opportunities to make our city stronger. Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic exemplifies the importance of city partnerships with community organizations and institutions to serve residents and ensure a recovery and renewal that includes all of our communities.”

Task force members have not been named, but Janey’s office said the group would include “institutional partners, elected officials, community advocates, labor leaders, and residents.” The panel plans to launch in the summer and hold meetings through the fall and winter.