In order to “…provide taxpayers and other stakeholders with some data on the potential tax revenue from properties that are currently exempt from property taxes”, the state’s Auditor General released a report yesterday that showed the dollar value of property in ten counties in Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County.
The data for Allegheny County shows that the total value of all property (taxable and exempt) is $100.4 billion, all exempt value is $24.6 billion, and the amount of exempt value attributed to medical facilities that are classified as purely public charities at $3.1 billion. The report repeats these classifications for nine other counties, and attempts to calculate a potential tax liability if such property were fully subject to county, municipal, and school taxes. In Allegheny County, for example, if all current tax-exempt property were stripped of their exemption and subject to millage rates, the $24.6 billion in value would pay $619 million in real estate taxes to the County, municipalities (based on the average municipal millage rate), and school districts (based on the average school millage rate). The municipal and school taxes would be concentrated where those properties are located.
Of course, that that total would be accurate if publicly owned property (attributed to Federal, state, local, school, authority) paid taxes and if the government would tax small charitable providers and churches. That probably won’t happen, and that’s why the debate over tax-exempts “paying their fair share” typically falls to universities and medical facilities, the latter being analyzed in the current report. When the Allegheny County Controller examined tax-exempt property in 2012—an analysis noted in the AG’s report and one we wrote about—the share of tax-exempt property owned by government was slightly more than the share owned by churches, hospitals, and higher-education.
So when one looks at how much of a share tax-exempt property is in the counties examined by the Auditor General, we see two counties (Allegheny and Dauphin) with over 20% of total assessed value accounted for by tax-exempt property; one county (Monroe) had less than 10% and the remainder fell in between. When one looks at the share of exempt value that is accounted for by medical facilities, the highest share in the sample belongs to Lehigh County (15%) followed by Allegheny and Dauphin, both at 13%. That means in Allegheny County that while its $3.1 billion in medical exempt value is far and away above any of the other counties examined there is still $21 billion in exempt value in other classifications.