The mayor and the city government are absolutely correct in asking the city’s many nonprofits to increase the payments they make in lieu of taxes.
For more than a century, the argument about tax exempts being totally exempted from taxes has not been questioned enough to make a difference.
The exemptions began with church properties, spread to hospitals and learning institutions, then to museums.
The combined value of Boston’s nonprofit properties is $13.6 billion, according to the Boston Assessing Department.
If those properties were not exempt their tax bill would be $404 million.
In lieu of tax payments have been rising as the nonprofits reluctantly come to understand that for all the advantages of having them here in Boston, they, too, need make a contribution.
In lieu of tax payments for 2011 totaled $15 million.
Nineteen major medical, educational, and cultural institutions paid not one dime to the city in 2011.
This included Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Simmons College and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and WGBH and the Museum of Science among many others.
All this is scheduled to change if the city has anything to say about it.
The targeted in lieu of tax payment in five years is set to be $48 million.
To their credit, most of those already making in lieu of tax payments have said they would like to increase their payments and can fully understand the need for them.
When one considers the enormous cost for city infrastructure vis a vis the tax exempt properties contributing almost nothing to that, the argument for increasing such payments is shown to be compelling and necessary for the city’s financial well-being.
Right now, the nonprofits are being asked to pay certain amounts by the city.
When push comes to shove, the city will need to send all the nonprofits in lieu of “tax” bills that are as enforceable as any other.
Only then will the playing field among the nonprofits truly be fair and equitable and open to the public for scrutiny like any other.