Task force to scrutinize tax-exempt nonprofits
Pittsburgh has recruited 33 people to serve on a task force that will decide whether tax-exempt charities are paying their fair share for city services.
“Hopefully, they'll come up with a formula that's fair and understandable for everybody,” said Dana Yealy, who chairs Pittsburgh's Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, one of the city's two state-appointed financial overseers.
Assistant Finance Director Cathy Qureshi picked task force members, selecting representatives from the city's neighborhoods, nonprofit organizations, corporate community and other sectors such as the mayor's office and City Council. She said the first public meeting will be this month.
The ICA approved Pittsburgh's 2013 budget under the condition that the city assemble the task force to determine how much in voluntary contributions it should receive from nonprofits each year.
The problem is nonprofits such as UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh aren't obligated to give the city anything, although the mayor's office credits them with driving Pittsburgh's “meds and eds” economy. Rich Stanizzo, business manager for the Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council, who confirmed he is a member of the task force, said he believes contributions will come only through forceful means.
He said the task force should determine how much property charities own and then lobby Harrisburg for a change in law that would allow cities to somehow extract money from them.
“I think no matter what (we) come up with, it has to be done legislatively,” he said.
City officials have complained for years that tax-exempt institutions, which include government entities, occupy about 40 percent of city real estate but contribute little monetarily for services. Charities make voluntary contributions known as payments in lieu of taxes through an umbrella group, the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund. The group is expected to contribute $5.2 million total in 2012 and 2013. The city's budget this year is about $470 million.
Yealy said he hopes the task force will offer a forum for all sides and use their views to develop a fair and defined formula for nonprofits' contributions. He believes they would rather cooperate than have government challenge their tax-exempt status. If they don't cooperate, he said, the city can “let the enforcement people get more aggressive and go that way.”
Reynolds Clark, who chairs the Service Fund's board, said the group's members contribute greatly to quality of life in the Pittsburgh region and hope to highlight that for the task force. He said he hopes the task force determines how much property charities own in Pittsburgh. Clark thinks it's much less than 40 percent.
“I think a lot of this is developing partnerships and understandings, and an understanding that it's a two-way street,” he said.
Council president Darlene Harris confirmed that she, councilman Ricky Burgess and council budget director Bill Urbanic are members of the task force. Qureshi confirmed that Nick Lyons, who works in the city's finance department, belongs. She refused to divulge other members' names until releasing the full list to the task force first.
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.
- Former employee at Plum home-building firm charged with embezzling nearly $200K
- 3 arrested in connection with murder of teenager in Knoxville
- $9M sought to finish turning Penn Circle in Pittsburgh to two-way streets
- Plum school board asks why tip line was removed from student handbook
- $11M gift from Hillman to help CMU attract faculty, support students
- Friends say Baldwin Borough couple in murder-suicide was depressed
- Fans connect with their beloved Pirates through homemade signs
- Roads to close on Pittsburgh’s North Side this weekend
- Authorities identify McKeesport man whose body was found in Yough River
- Shell, Center water authority reach agreement on relocating water source
- Pa. spends millions on death penalty cases that rarely end in execution