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Mayor Gainey unveils plan to audit ‘purely public charities’ as officials challenge status of 26

PITTSBURGH — More than two dozen properties in the city of Pittsburgh are being questioned by Mayor Ed Gainey’s office regarding whether or not tax should be paid on them by their owners: Purely Public Charities, meaning they are exempt, but that could soon change.

Tuesday morning, Gainey doubled down on holding those Pittsburgh nonprofits accountable, saying not all of them are meeting the qualifications to not pay city property tax. He held a press conference, the next step in the city’s audit of all property that belongs to Purely Public Charities, which Gainey said accounts for more than one-third of property in the city. He ordered the audit back in January.

“Everybody should pay their fair share,” Gainey said.

Tuesday, the city’s finance department planned to send a Taxing Jurisdiction Exemption Challenge to the Allegheny County’s Office of Property Assessments for 26 parcels.

“Parking lots, vacant lots, houses, and office space. We have heard from hundreds of people from across the city, who have provided us with reports and testimony about charities that they would like to see us investigate first,” Gainey said.

“There are a lot of people on the list who are not charities at all, so we need to stop that as soon as possible.” Krysia Kubiak, city solicitor.

Gainey says that list includes many of those reported entities, including UPMC, Highmark/Allegheny Health Network, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pittsburgh. The law and finance departments have completed a review of 10 percent of exempt properties and reported that so far, the city has missed out on $3.5 million in tax revenue.

“We have bridges we need to take care of. We have roads we have to take care of. We have public safety we have to take care of. We have a host,” Gainey said.

The city will file an application with the county to challenge the exemption and a hearing will be scheduled, with both sides having the right to appeal within 30 days of a ruling. The audit is projected to be finished by early next year.

So far, these entities have responded to Channel 11 with the following statements:

Allegheny Health Network:

“Highmark Health and AHN leaders have been in conversations with the mayor’s office about the issue of support to a civic fund and look forward to continued dialogue. We believe that any efforts with the city need to ensure all organizations are consistently engaged and that funding support is equitably and fairly proportionate to each organization. And as a reminder, in 2022, Highmark paid about $200 million in taxes and we provided more than $300 million in charity care, uncompensated care, and community giving. We have also invested nearly $1.4 billion in communities since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Carnegie Mellon University:

“We look forward to working with Mayor Gainey on this review as Carnegie Mellon University continues to make major investments and contributions to the Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania economies through our research, education and service missions, as well as critical job creation, startup formation and capital investments.”

University of Pittsburgh:

“Our conversations with the mayor and his team are active and ongoing—on this topic and many others. We are confident that the University of Pittsburgh meets the requirements spelled out for tax exempt properties.”

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