Pittsburgh's tax bull's-eye on nonprofits
By Bob Bauder
Published: Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 11:44 p.m.
Pittsburgh's tax-exempt charitable organizations are not very charitable when giving money to the city to help pay for police, fire and other services, officials contend.
The city expects about $12.6 million next year — less than 3 percent of its $470 million budget — in voluntary payments from nonprofits, charities and city-affiliated agencies in lieu of property and other city taxes. The government agencies will pay about 75 percent of that, budget documents show.
Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials for years have tried to squeeze more money from the nonprofits. At the request of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, one of the city's state-appointed financial overseers, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is recruiting a committee to examine nonprofit payments.
“When you have those nonprofits that are not paying any property tax, or any type of tax, I think they should be giving their fair share,” City Council President Darlene Harris said. “They benefit from our road services, our police, our paramedics.”
County Council next month plans to review in a public hearing the tax-exempt status of UPMC's properties. The hospital system is the largest tax-exempt landowner in Allegheny County with holdings valued at $1.3 billion.
Spokesman Paul Wood said UPMC pays taxes on 49 percent of the 1,100 acres it owns in the county.
“UPMC is happy to operate under any set of rules or standards local, state or federal taxing authorities might establish as long as those same standards are applied fairly and in a nondiscriminatory manner to all nonprofits,” Wood said.
Some charitable organizations band together under the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund to contribute to the city's budget. The fund won't identify members or disclose how much each contributes.
In 2010, the fund included 46 members and contributed $2.6 million annually in 2010 and 2011. It expects to give similar amounts in 2012 and 2013.
Reynolds Clark, who represents fund members, declined to comment.
Pittsburgh also gets about $600,000 annually through separate agreements with city charities. A review of the agreements that the Tribune-Review obtained through a Right to Know request shows that 2011 payments included $132,355 from UPMC; $26,858 from Duquesne University; $31,585 from Carnegie Mellon University; and $40,000 from the Central Blood Bank.
Duquesne's share comes from agreements for the Gumberg Library, which was converted from a former parking garage, and the A.J. Palumbo Center on the Uptown campus, according to spokeswoman Bridget Fare. The agreements resulted from city challenges of tax exemptions for the two buildings.
Carnegie Mellon pays the city for its facility at the Pittsburgh Technology Center on Second Avenue, according to spokesman Ken Walters.
The remainder of what the city collects — about $9.4 million — will come from the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority ($5.3 million), Parking Authority ($2.6 million), and Urban Redevelopment Authority ($1.5 million), according to budget figures. The city also received $208,185 from companies that manage Pittsburgh Housing Authority properties, according to the city Finance Department.
City Controller Michael Lamb said nonprofits own about 20 percent of the property in Pittsburgh. Including government agencies, they own $8.5 billion in city real estate, which would represent about $92 million in annual property tax revenue, according to Lamb's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2011. State law prohibits governments from collecting property taxes from nonprofits.
“It's something that we need to pursue for increased contributions from them,” Lamb said.
Dana Yealy, chairman of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, said he hopes the mayor's task force looks to cities such as Providence, R.I., for examples of partnerships with nonprofits.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, facing a $22.5 million budget deficit this year, secured more than $44 million in pledged contributions from tax-exempt institutions.
About $40 million of that is coming over 11 years from three universities — Brown, the Rhode Island School of Design and Johnson & Wales University — which, along with Providence College in a 2003 agreement, pledged $50 million over 20 years.
“It made sense as a good partner to help them out (in 2003),” said Dan Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Rhode Island, which represents the four schools.
Providence, which has about half the population of Pittsburgh and a $310 million budget, agreed to hand over to the three schools control of streets near their campuses and parking privileges at city-owned metered spaces, Egan said.
“We will work with the nonprofit community, City Council, legislative leaders and the soon-to-be-created nonprofit task force to encourage everyone to pay their fair share,” said Ravenstahl spokeswoman Joanna Doven.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins stave off Ducks’ shooting barrage to win in shootout
- Trade to Penguins caps frenetic period for winger Stempniak
- Penguins notebook: Maatta leaves lasting impression with Selanne
- Must-see works to catch before Carnegie exhibit ends
- Steelers restructure Brown’s contract to become salary cap compliant
- Greensburg woman accused of assaulting nurse in Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital
- East Hills brawl involves 50 people, nets at least 1 arrest
- Donor name to be stripped from Penn Hills library
- Penn State trustee resigns, regrets Paterno vote
- 12 local wrestlers advance to PIAA Class AAA finals
- Pitt’s oldest known living football letterman turns 100