Hearing Will Tread Familiar Ground, But Shouldn’t
County Council wants to hold a meeting next month to look at the real estate holdings of UPMC because, according to one Council member, "People have been asking a lot of questions about this [topic]" and "It’s a good idea to have this meeting and air it out properly in front of everybody."
That’s probably what the Councilman’s brethren on City Council were feeling back in June when it held its own post-agenda hearing on the topic. That hearing was peppered with a lot of language about living wages , transit cuts (they were pending at the time), and how non-profits impact the City budget. It was stressed that the purpose of the hearing was not to single out any one entity. It is a strong bet alot of these themes will come up again next month.
At the June meeting the City heard from officials from the County’s chief fiscal office about how that office wanted to make sure that all exemptions were merited. That has not changed-we even pointed out that where any non-profit has property that is not dedicated to a charitable purpose it ought to be taxed. The officials presented their findings from a report by the County Controller which projected the amount of revenue taxing bodies could receive if all exempt properties were taxable, even though it is doubtful that any taxing body would tax the property holdings of another level of government.
The officials also pointed out that the County’s record keeping on parcels that are exempt-remember the County is in charge of property assessment for itself and the City, as well as all other municipalities and school districts in the County-exhibited "poorly maintained exemption data". That has likely not changed either-in fact a newspaper series on the topic reported as far back as late September that the record keeping was shoddy. The Councilman chairing the December hearing, when asked about how the County failed to do a mandatory review of exempt property once every three years (based on legislation sponsored by the Councilman) said that it "must have fell through the cracks" and that Council "would have to sit down with [the Executive] and talk about that".
Will County Council use the forum to prod officials as to how the system has improved since then?