Cleveland’s hospitals are ducking millions in taxes and should pay ‘their fair share,’ three groups say

Plain Dealer - December 9th, 2013
   

Patrick O’Donnell covered the press conference with the Cleveland Teachers Union and Common Good Ohio that highlighted our examination of how much Cleveland two largest private nonprofit hospital systems would pay if they didn’t benefit from property tax exemptions.

The city’s two big hospitals should be paying the Cleveland schools more than $20 million in taxes — or at least a negotiated portion of that money — the Cleveland Teachers UnionCommon Good Ohio and Policy Mattters Ohio said Monday.

The three groups took aim at the more than $1.6 billion in property that the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals own in Cleveland — more than $2 billion across all of Cuyahoga County — and the millions in property taxes the non-profit hospitals don’t pay because their properties are exempt from the tax rolls.

Policy Matters said in a report it released Monday that the hospitals would pay at least $43 million more combined in taxes countywide annually, if most of their property was not exempt. About $34 million of that would come from just their Cleveland properties — $20.5 million of which would go to the schools.

Common Good and the CTU proposed that the Clinic and UH negotiate payment in-lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements with communities and schools to pay a share of what they would otherwise owe.

Scherhera Shearer, president of Common Good, a non-profit started in 2012 “to fight for social, economic and environmental justice,” said the hospitals need to pay to help the city’s children, particularly after residents voted for a large school tax increase last year.

“It’s crazy to ask the everyday common person to invest in the city when you have these enormous non-profits that aren’t,” Shearer said.”

CTU President David Quolke said he hopes the latest totals of hospital property values — and taxes not paid — will start discussion in the community about what the hospitals’ fair share should be. He said he plans to ask the school district and City Council to start negotiations with the hospitals.

“When we’ve seen so many residents of Cleveland step up, the time is right to have that discussion with the Clinic and UH,” Quolke said.

The Clinic and UH responded by pointing to work with the Cleveland schools and charity care provided to low-income residents.

Our recent report was commissioned by the CTU and Common Good Ohio. It serves as an update to a similar report we did in 2004 for then-Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis.