Non-Profits Face Two-Pronged Battle

The state and the City of Pittsburgh are prepared to lean a bit harder on the non-profit sector in order to shore up their spending plans. The state wants to extend the sales tax to tickets sold to cultural attractions like the zoo, ballet, and museums and the City wants to enact a host of new fees and charges on things like hospital admissions, college and university students, and water use by large non-profits to provide some $10 to $15 million per year for its pension costs.

Of course, none of the targeted parties like the idea. On the sales tax, various officials noted "The cost of tickets is a big factor. Adding on an additional tax can only hurt attendance in the short term and the long term"…"this proposal would only place an additional burden on us. We definitely feel it could adversely impact our visits"… "Honest, this proposal has come entirely out of the blue, without any prior discussion, and that is what we find so puzzling." Hmm. Wonder if any of the affected venues in Allegheny County would like to get the input of businesses that have been collecting the extra 1 percent sales tax that has gone to support many cultural and recreational attractions helped through the Regional Asset District. That proposal came out of the blue as well: no public meetings, no referendum, and no broad based discussion. It was sold as having minimal impact on business but that has not been the case.

On the City proposal, one quote stands out: "UPMC has always supported the city". The region’s largest employer was a big contributor to the voluntary Public Service Fund and the major driver behind the Pittsburgh Promise. Perhaps they thought that would be enough to convince the City to avoid talk of more fees and charges aimed at the non-profit sector. But not so: instead the non-profit giant’s enabling act has not prevented the City for searching for even more money,

Is there a glimmer of hope for these organizations? Perhaps, but not in this corner of the state. Another news article today pointed out that the County wants to build a package of consistent and recurring revenues for its budget, including "$4 million from contributions by nonprofits to county finances". Is it time for the non-profit community to take a stand?