Parcels Move from Exempt to Taxable…Maybe

Six years after County Council enacted an ordinance saying they wanted properties receiving a tax-exemption as an institution of purely public charity to be reviewed periodically and seven months after County Council held a hearing involving the region’s largest non-profit health provider, about 20 owners of parcels that were deemed exempt have indicated that those parcels should indeed be taxable.

Recall that, as we noted in a Brief at the end of 2012, the County Chief Assessment Officer was given the job of conducting a review of properties that qualified as tax-exempt under the state’s Institutions of Purely Public Charity Act once every three years to determine if the exemption was justified. Lo and behold three years after the ordinance was passed no review was done. Same deal four years later, five years later, etc. County Council chose to conduct a hearing regarding the status of UPMC, and soon after the County Executive told the Assessment Office to get moving and carry out the dictates of the 2007 ordinance.

Inquiries on 2,800 parcels were sent out. The value of the 20 properties comes to $8.7 million: at the County millage rate of 4.78 mills, the County would collect $41,000 in real estate taxes. Twelve of the parcels are located in the City of Pittsburgh, meaning the City and the Pittsburgh Public Schools would collect money from those properties. The remaining eight are spread throughout other municipalities and school districts. It should be noted that several of the parcels that appeared in the article now indicate that something is in error and they should not be on the list.

When the Controller’s office looked at this issue last June in a Taxpayer Alert they estimated that the County had around $23 billion in exempt property post-reassessment. That means the value of the 20 properties moving to the taxable side represents about 0.03% of the total exempt value. Realizing that much of that total is owned by various levels of government which would not be scrutinized under the ordinance, the percentage of these properties as part of what is left over would rise, but without seeing how much of the total is accounted for by state, Federal, and authority ownership it is not clear by how much.