Should tax exempt organizations pay for city services?

Should not for profit institutions in Syracuse, which are exempt from property taxes, pay for city services?

Syracuse Common Councilor Patrick Hogan is proposing legislation that would require many large tax exempt organizations to enter into "service agreements." Under such agreements, an organization such as Saint Joseph's Hospital Health Center would pay a portion of the money they would otherwise owe in property taxes.

Hogan says St. Joseph's currently owns 38 properties in the city which would have a combined assessed value of $215,791,100. Hogan says if all those properties were taxable, St. Joseph's would pay the city about $6 million in taxes.

Hogan says 53% of the property within the Syracuse city limits is tax exempt, yet the city provides services to those organizations through the DPW, Police and Fire services.

Hogan points out that in this year's proposed city budget is $500,000 from a service agreement Mayor Stephanie Miner negotiated with Syracuse University. Hogan says Syracuse University's total assessed value comes to $624 million, which would translate to $16 million in taxes.

He also points out that the City of Boston has a policy in which not-for-profits contribute as much as 25%of the amount they would otherwise pay in property taxes. Hogan says the city would only reach service agreements with organizations with properties in excess of $10 million in value.

Other organizations that could be affected include: Upstate Medical Center, SUNY ESF, the Salvation Army, Crouse Hospital, Plaza Nursing Home, Bernadine Apartments, and McCarthy Manor. Hogan says churches would be excluded from the service agreements.

Through Kerri Ganci, Director of Public Relations, St. Joesephâ??s Hospital issued the following statement: "We are unable to comment on legislation we havenâ??t seen. We understand the city is in financial crisis and we share the Mayor's concern on that issue. We seek to engage in dialogue with the Mayor on potential solutions."

Upstate Medical Center also issued a statement: "SUNY Upstate Medical University can appreciate the fiscal constraints that the City of Syracuse is under better than others. Indeed, changing demographics; unchecked labor, pension and fringes costs; coupled with reduced funding from Albany and Washington are playing havoc with our budget as well. While we have not seen Councilor Hoganâ??s proposal, we can say with certainty that as a State entity we are forbidden by State law to pay taxes. We are proud of the value that we bring to Syracuse, Onondaga County and the Region. We are looking forward to discussing ways that we can build on that value with the City and others in a manner that does not involve transfers of funds."

A spokesman for Mayor Miner says she has no comment about Hogan's proposal.

Councilor Hogan says if the city can not come to terms with service agreements with not-for-profits, he feels officials would have to look into a "commuter tax" in which people who work in the city, but live outside, would pay a type of income tax.