Strict Standards: Declaration of C_DataMapper_Driver_Base::define() should be compatible with C_Component::define($context = false) in /nas/content/live/axisphilly/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/datamapper/class.datamapper_driver_base.php on line 609
Strict Standards: Declaration of C_DataMapper_Driver_Base::initialize() should be compatible with C_Component::initialize() in /nas/content/live/axisphilly/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/datamapper/class.datamapper_driver_base.php on line 609
Strict Standards: Declaration of C_Displayed_Gallery_Mapper::define() should be compatible with C_CustomPost_DataMapper_Driver::define($object_name, $context = false) in /nas/content/live/axisphilly/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/nextgen_gallery_display/class.displayed_gallery_mapper.php on line 4
Strict Standards: Declaration of C_Displayed_Gallery_Mapper::initialize() should be compatible with C_CustomPost_DataMapper_Driver::initialize($object_name) in /nas/content/live/axisphilly/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/nextgen_gallery_display/class.displayed_gallery_mapper.php on line 4
Are the folks at Cathedral Village, the retirement community in Andorra, civic-minded citizens or a bunch of chumps? You decide.
Each year, the village voluntarily pays the city $125,000 in lieu of taxes.
I say in lieu of because as a non-profit Cathedral Village is exempt from paying any taxes, a list that includes property taxes. Yet, they do make this sizeable voluntary payment. It is inexplicable.
Despite playing phone tag, Cathedral CEO Dennis Koza and I were unable to talk last week about his organization’s shocking action.
I need his email so I can send him a copy of a recent report by the area’s large non-profits that argues that what Cathedral is doing — paying payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS) — is a very bad idea. Nonprofits, the 56-page report argues, already provide so much to the city — in the way of services, employment, volunteers, etc. — that they should not be required to make any additional payments.
Some plead poverty. Others, such as the University of Pennsylvania, find it hard to do that with a straight face (Penn had a $632 million ‘net profit’ last year.) Instead, Penn prefers to talk about the many wonderful things it does: as employer to thousands, as educator of a large number (of mostly out-of-state) students, as a huge hospital conglomerate tending to the sick, as a do-gooder that sends forth legions of faculty and students to help the community via mass outbreaks of noblesse oblige.
In other cities, large universities and hospitals do make payments to their local governments. But, this creates nothing but “controversy, confrontation and litigation,” the report tells us, conjuring up the image of ugly storm clouds rising.
Better to follow what the report calls the Philadelphia Model, which emphasizes cooperation and good feeling between the city and the institutions. A vital part of the Philadelphia Model is that these institutions pay no taxes, nor do they do PILOTS.
You could call them proud tax freeloaders, but that would be wrong, and that’s for sure.
Obviously, Cathedral Village does not subscribe to the Philadelphia Model. It follows — what to call it? — perhaps the Andorra Model.
It turns out Cathedral is not the only offender. Seven other local institutions also pay PILOTS to the city. The totals they give are not significant. All the aid added up to only $240,222.40 this year.
Many of them started giving in the late 1990’s when Mayor Ed Rendell went on a campaign to get local institutions to kick in what he considered their fair share by helping the city through PILOTS. The program yielded about $10 million a year.
But, the Rendell method shows the flaw of the PILOT idea. While you can lean on institutions to kick in some cash, you cannot force them — they are exempt under law. Once the pressure is off, the money tends to disappear.
Still, there are some institutions that continue to give. The list includes the Albert Einstein Medical Center (but not Penn, Jefferson, Hahneman or Children’s Hospital of Philadelpia); Peirce College (but notTemple, Penn, LaSalle or St. Joe’s) and such small groups as the American College of Physicians, the Philadelphia County Dental Society and the Commission on Certification of Foreign Nurses.
I tried to track down these miscreants to find out why they weren’t with the Philadelphia Model. I had some luck.
At the American College of Physicians, for instance, spokeswoman Megan Hanks sent me a statement that said: “Even as a non-profit, ACP feels it is important to contribute to city services that ACP may benefit from directly or indirectly, such as fire and police.”
If I were Penn President Amy Gutmann I would pencil in a meeting with whoever heads this ACP bunch and tell them to get on message when it comes to PILOTS.
Of course, she couldn’t just come out and say “Stop it!” That would be crude. She could use code. Maybe a wink and a nod and an “Ixnay on Ilotspay” will do it.
Another person who should attend that meeting is the president of Peirce College. Peirce gives a PILOT, which creates a major disturbance in the field because, like Penn, Peirce is an institution of higher learning, albeit a much smaller one. It has revenue of $29 million a year, while Penn has revenue of $5.4 billion a year.
Once I reached Amanda Frey, spokeswoman for the college, I discovered the situation was even worse. Peirce not only gives a PILOT, it has a scholarship program for the children of Philadelphia police, fire and corrections department employees.
As Frey explained: “We do this as a way of giving back to the City via payments, donations and scholarship to Philadelphia students…”
The mystery institution on my list was Salus University. I had never heard of Salus. When I looked it up, I was in for a second surprise: it is located in Cheltenham Township. It is not even in Philadelphia.
Why would a foreign institution give?
As it turns out, Salus was formerly known as the Philadelphia College of Optometry. It changed its name and moved to Elkins Park years ago. It offers degree program to health professionals, most of them involved vision or auditory care.
It also turns out that Salus runs something called the Eye Institute, with a clinic in Oak Lane and smaller ones in Chestnut Hill and East Falls, where it offers eye care to individuals. These clinics also act as training centers for Salus students.
It gives because it has these branches in the city, according to spokeswoman Peggy Shelly. “The rationale is that we should give back when asked,” she said.
The Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine gives, too. When I asked Carol Weisl, spokeswoman at the medical school on City Avenue to explain why, she replied: “We do it because it is the right thing to do.”
Now, there’s a dangerous notion.