Officials in Latrobe Eye Payments from Nonprofits

Article excerpt

With about 15 percent of the property in Latrobe owned by tax- exempt charitable nonprofits, officials have questioned whether the city should ask them to make payments in lieu of taxes for such municipal services as police and fire protection and road maintenance.

Charitable nonprofits, such as government buildings, schools, universities and churches, are exempt from paying real estate taxes.

"Eds (education organizations) and meds (health care operations) are multimillion-dollar corporations," city Manager Alex Graziani said. "They're getting a high level of services" from the city.

At the same time, "it's hard to measure the intangibles of having a hospital" or a school like Westmoreland County Community College in Latrobe, he said. He noted that college officials could have decided to relocate its Laurel Education Center in Unity.

Latrobe City Council has not initiated any steps to initiate a PILOT program -- payment in lieu of taxes -- but the issue of seeking contributions from nonprofits was discussed last month when council tabled a motion to approve the nonprofit Adelphoi USA's plan to build a 19,170-square-foot alternative school at its Lloyd Avenue campus.

The new building would connect to the Dr. Robert Ketterer Charter School on Adelphoi's campus, which straddles Latrobe and Unity.

Councilman Michael Skapura said Adelphoi did not offer to make a payment to the city in lieu of real estate taxes when it sought approval of its proposed project. Skapura said he wanted to see Adelphoi contribute to the fire and police protection the organization receives.

The city has received voluntary payments in lieu of taxes. In 2010, the city got about $14,000 from nonprofits, including about $11,700 from Laurel Highlands Village, a retirement home on Weldon Street, according to former city manager Rick Stadler.

"Getting nonprofits to pay in lieu of taxes might be nigh impossible," Deputy Mayor Kenneth Baldonieri said.

If the city would send the nonprofits a letter requesting a voluntary payment, "we might get a pleasant surprise," he said.

Stadler had suggested in 2010 that city officials meet with officials of nonprofits who could authorize payments in lieu of taxes.

While Excela Health does not pay property taxes on its Latrobe Hospital, its employees pay earned income taxes and the health system contributes to community projects and organizations, said Jennifer Miele, an Excela Health spokeswoman.

If Excela Health were to make a payment in lieu of taxes to Latrobe, then it likely would face the same request from public officials in Greensburg, where it operates Westmoreland Hospital, and in Mt. Pleasant, where it has Frick Hospital, Graziani said.

"This is a state issue," he said. …