It costs a lot of money for cities and towns to provide services like the police and fire departments and picking up garbage. That's why we pay taxes. But not nonprofits, who sit on some of the most valuable land in the city of Boston. Our WGBH Data Desk found that if those nonprofits were taxed at current commerial rates, the city would be getting nearly half a billion dollars more, every year.

That's money that could go to schools, homeless prevention and substance abuse programs.

In an effort to get some money back, Boston launched its current PILOT program, which stands for "Payment In Lieu Of Taxes." This year, they asked 49 of the larger nonprofits, universities, hospitals and others to give a total of $47.4 million. But they only received just over $32 million, leaving a $15 million gap.

Disclaimer: WGBH is a nonprofit, and was asked to contribute. We met the request, in full.

But some other organizations gave no cash, such as Simmons College, Fischer College and Wheelock College. Northeastern gave 1.1 million out of the 4.8 million requested, and Harvard, which has a $40 billion endowment, gave $3.2 million out of the $5.8 million requested.

These institutions argue that they provide many other benefits to the city beyond just dollars and cents. Massachusetts Nonprofit Network CEO, Jim Klocke, Senior Research Analyst at Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Adam Langley, and Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George ‪(@AnnissaForBos), joined Jim on Tuesday to discuss.

Langley said that everybody should be contributing something, and we need to have some sense of fairness. Essaibi-George argued that Boston Public Schools have been underfunded every year, and the missing payments would go right into that fund.