Friday, June 19, 2009

Ravenstahl seeks more money from nonprofits, commuters

Ravenstahl seeks more money from nonprofits, commuters: "Ravenstahl seeks more money from nonprofits, commuters"

Don't go after more money from the nonprofits. That approach is wrong, in my not so humble opinion.

Rather, the next step is to stop the bleeding. The city is being overtaken by the nonprofit sector. On an inch by inch basis, the footprint of nonprofit land is growing. And, that growth is going to kill the city. That growth, outward growth, needs to stop. Rather, all nonprofit growth should be upward. Or, nonprofit growth can occur in rented spaces from for-profit buildings.

The nonprofits are such because of the good work they do -- be it religious, educational or health, mostly. Fine. The rub comes as the nonprofit don't need to pay taxes. And, the best tax to keep is the land tax. That's really all that city should focus upon as the land of Pittsburgh is all that sets it apart from other places.

Jobs can move and jobs are moving. More work is being done, for instance, at UPMC in locations outside of the city -- even in Ireland and other countries.

But the land can't move. Focus on the land.

The nonprofit land expansion should be studied, inch-by-inch, block by block, year by year, entity by entity with purpose and investment money being fully documented and understood. Google maps, layers, GIS data and all should be published in open formats for all to see and manipulate.

It would be realistic to take the gross land held by the nonprofit sector and insist that it be reduced over time. There are wasted nonprofit spaces that would then be more valued. Net changes are fine as well. If one site of 3,000 square yards is sold and made into taxable property again, then another site can be purchased and put into the hands of nonprofit ownership. But, net increases have to end.

Focus on the dirt. Focus on the land. Insist upon a reduction in the overall size of the nonprofit footprint.

Pittsburgh's Nonprofit Executives should study this and make a counter-offer to the mayor and county executive.


Eric Williams said...

I much prefer paying for government services through fees over taxes. If you use a service, pay for it. That's how it would work in a free market.

Mark Rauterkus said...


UPMC and Pitt as well as others (DU, CMU) have their own police. They take care of their own garbage. They have been known to build their own roads as well.

The problem with your thinking is that if this was the case -- pay as you use -- then the big boys wouldn't use anything of the city. So, the city has no leverage.

Hence -- we've got to get back to an appreciation for LAND.

Pay based upon your land footprint.

Eric Williams said...

"The problem with your thinking is that if this was the case -- pay as you use -- then the big boys wouldn't use anything of the city. So, the city has no leverage."I Don't see that as a problem. I'd be happy to see governments do less and private enterprise do more. If the city doesn't own the land, they have no right to tax it. The only other equitable solution I can see is to end tax-exempt status and treat all businesses equally, whether they operate for profit or not.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Again. I agree.

But, the non-tax properties of the nonprofits need to shrink in total size (outward footprint). Insist that they build up with taller buildings. Insist that they (nonprofits) do a better job at pooling resources (land, spaces) because their pool tramples the rest.

And, the non-tax status of the nonprofits is not a fight that we can control in the city.

Eric Williams said...

Why should a government have the authority and power to dictate how much land a business buys? The city shouldn't have a right to dictate how/when land is bought and use just because the status quo doesn't bring in enough revenue.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Because when the business is a nonprofit, the land is taken off the tax rolls.

Also, because the businesses offered to work together for the sake of the city. Hence, we've got the Pgh Service Fund. So, that is peer review.

The city should ask the Pgh Service Fund to monitor expansion and total size of land ownership.