State overseers ordered Pittsburgh on Tuesday to begin a new dialogue with nonprofit groups on payments in lieu of taxes and to develop a new, public formula for determining how much those payments should be.
The Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority approved the city's 2013 budget and five-year plan with the condition that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl form a task force on nonprofits by Dec. 31 and submit a report by June 30.
The task force is to examine how other cities handle nonprofit contributions and make recommendations regarding the "level, length and form of support from the nonprofit sector to the city of Pittsburgh," Dana Yealy, authority chairman, said in a letter to Mr. Ravenstahl.
In an interview, Mr. Yealy called for an end to anonymous contributions. He said he wants overseers and the public to know which nonprofits contribute and how much they give, including in-kind contributions to the city.
Though the city cannot compel donations, Mr. Yealy said, efforts should be made to show nonprofits that cooperation is in their best interest.
Mr. Ravenstahl said in a statement, "Thank you to the ICA for supporting the city's ongoing efforts to receive fair nonprofit payments."
Task force meetings must be public, Mr. Yealy's letter said, noting the authority may rescind approval of the $469 million, no-tax-increase budget if the city does not comply with the directive on nonprofit contributions.
Nonprofit contributions are a perennially thorny subject. The authority briefly rescinded approval of the 2012 budget because of concern that the city wasn't doing enough to court nonprofit payments.
Tuesday's directive was motivated by concerns about the nonprofit community's long-term commitment to contributions. The city's largest source of nonprofit contributions -- the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund -- has committed to payments only through 2013.
This year, the city anticipates about $2.6 million from the fund, a consortium of nonprofits that identifies its members but doesn't say how much each contributes.
In addition, the city has negotiated private agreements with 10 to 20 nonprofits for payments in lieu of taxes that total $450,000 to $500,000 this year.
Last week, the state Office of Open Records ordered the city to provide the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with all agreements it has with those nonprofits.
City Council President Darlene Harris said she has already formed a task force to study nonprofit contributions but is willing to participate in the new study.
Joe Smydo: email@example.com or 412-263-1548.