39% of Pittsburgh property is tax exempt, county says

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Pittsburgh continues to have by far the largest proportion of tax-exempt real estate in Allegheny County, the latest property assessment statistics show.

The county's Office of Property Assessments valued all real estate in the city at $32.9 billion. Exempt real estate -- property owned by hospitals, educational institutions, churches and all levels of government -- totaled $12.7 billion, or 39 percent of the total.

That percentage compares to just 21 percent for the county overall. The aggregate value for all county real estate will rise to $107.6 billion, with $23.1 billion being tax-exempt.

The new property values were delivered to local governments and school districts Friday. They are to be used to calculate 2013 property-tax millage rates.

Despite a perception that institutions like UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh continue to take more and more property off tax roles, the proportion of tax-exempt real estate in the city has remained flat since the last reassessment in 2002. City real estate currently is valued at $22.4 billion, with tax-exempt properties representing $8.7 billion, or 39 percent, of the total.

At the other end of the spectrum is the tiny borough of Haysville, located along the Ohio River between Glen Osborne and Glenfield. Less than 1 percent of its $5.5 million in real estate will be tax exempt next year. In the 2010 census it had a population of 70.

The next closest community to Pittsburgh in terms of having a high proportion of tax-exempt real estate is McKeesport. Real estate in the Mon Valley city will be valued at $645 million next year. Property valued at about a third of that total, or $213 million, is tax exempt.

In the city's 6th Ward, which is home to UPMC McKeesport hospital, tax-exempt property accounts for 72 percent of the $109 million of all real estate. UPMC McKeesport, valued at $73 million, represents the bulk of that.

For boroughs as a group, tax-exempt property will total about 13 percent of all real estate next year. That percentage is similar for townships, at 14 percent.

For the past several years, Pittsburgh and county officials have been investigating ways to persuade operators of large nonprofit and charitable institutions to make payments in lieu of taxes, known as PILOT agreements, to help finance municipal services.

County council, for example, held a public hearing Dec. 5 to take testimony on the status of UPMC real estate. The Oakland-based health care giant is both the region's largest private employer and the county's largest owner of tax-exempt property.

Councilman John DeFazio, who chaired the public hearing, said council will schedule additional meetings on the issue early next year. Those sessions will look at the holdings of other nonprofits and charities.

Although talks have not resulted in any new PILOT agreements, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald has described ongoing discussions with representatives of the hospital system and other institutional nonprofits as "very positive."

UPMC officials have defended their institution's nonprofit status, pointing to the millions of dollars in community investments and uncompensated care it provides each year.


Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.


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