Tax-exempt properties cost Butler County nearly $6M in revenue
Nearly 3,100 tax-exempt properties cost Butler County about $6 million in property tax revenue each year, said chief assessor Chris Savage.
Tax-exempt properties include everything from churches to cemeteries to schools to housing authority property.
Along bustling Route 228 in Cranberry, several large developments are tax-exempt, including the sprawling Westinghouse Electric Co. headquarters and the under-construction home of the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School.
UPMC, a nonprofit health care provider and insurer, said it doesn't expect to seek tax-exempt status for its $72 million sports medicine facility being built in Cranberry at Interstate 79 and Route 228.
The vast majority of the 178,000-square-foot building will contain two ice rinks and related offices for the Pittsburgh Penguins, a for-profit business. It also would contain a UPMC clinic that would specialize in concussion treatment, orthopedics and physical and occupational therapy.
UPMC's offices would be such a small portion of the overall complex, “I don't expect us to pursue tax-exempt status,” said Albert L. Wright Jr., vice president of operations for UPMC.
The county contains about 88,900 taxable parcels, which are expected to generate $42 million in revenue just for the county alone based on the county's 24.628-mill property tax rate.
Cranberry has “a fair amount of tax-exempt properties,” said township Manager Jerry Andree, though he couldn't provide the exact number. “We have a lot of churches here, schools, Westinghouse. It's not an insignificant number.”
The county, the Seneca Valley School District and Cranberry agreed in 2007 to create a tax-free zone for the Westinghouse complex along Route 228 for 15 years ending in 2022.
The township's property tax rate is 13 mills, with the revenue to be used for general operation, fire, library and additional services.
Butler County's tax rate is 24.628 mills; the Seneca Valley levies a 112.75-mill property tax.
Butler County, the Mars Area School District, Adams and Valencia agreed to accept a shrinking scale of payments in lieu of taxes, beginning with the 2013-14 school year, from the St. Barnabas Health System, a retirement and health care community. The St. Barnabas Land Trust sought tax-exempt status because of the charitable aspects of its businesses, but school district officials feared they would lose money.
St. Barnabas paid $405,000 to the school district in lieu of taxes in 2012-13; that payment drops to $353,006 in 2013-14. By 2017-18, the payment drops to $243,453, where it remains for five more years.
The county has similar agreements with other retirement communities, including Passavant Retirement Community in Zelienople, Sherwood Oaks in Cranberry and Concordia Lutheran Ministries in Cabot.
County commission Chairman Bill McCarrier said that he's questioned some tax-exempt properties, such as a community center within a housing development.
“I think every municipality needs to look at those properties, and ask them to justify why they're tax exempt,” McCarrier said.
It's an issue that Allegheny County and Pittsburgh have been struggling with for years, saying that they're losing millions in much-needed tax dollars because of entities with tax-exempt and nonprofit status. City and county leaders have been critical of UPMC's tax-exempt status, though not all UPMC properties are tax-exempt.
UPMC has a sports complex on Pittsburgh's South Side, in which its sports medicine clinic is tax-exempt, but UPMC pays taxes on facilities rented to the Pittsburgh Steelers, including team offices, practice fields and training facilities.
In all, UPMC officials said, about 10 percent of the complex is tax-exempt.
The UPMC Passavant-Cranberry hospital complex on Route 19 is tax exempt, but doctors' offices within it are taxed, Savage said.
Savage said property owners have to file paperwork with the county's Board of Assessment Appeals to gain the tax-exempt status. If the property owner doesn't agree with the board's decision, he or she can file an appeal in Common Pleas Court.
For some properties, Savage said, there's little debate and the laws are clear as to who is exempt.
“A church is a church is a church,” Savage said.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 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.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.