Advocacy groups, union demand Cleveland-area hospital systems pay property taxes

Two Ohio public policy advocate groups and a Cleveland-area labor union have criticized the Cleveland Clinic and the University Hospitals healthcare systems, claiming both are affecting the state's largest school system because they do not pay any taxes.

The two hospital systems use their tax-exempt status to avoid about $20 million in annual taxes that should go to the city's school system, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The two providers own property assessed at $1.6 billion within city limits and $2 billion across Cuyahoga County, the article said. It cited data provided in a new report by Policy Matters Ohio, the Cleveland Teachers Union and Common Good Ohio.

The report noted that if the two systems did not have an exemption from property taxes, they would have to pay about $34 million per year to city and county coffers. Cleveland's schools would receive about $20.5 million from that total. The Cleveland Clinic does own a hotel within the city limits that are subject to property tax.

"It's crazy to ask the everyday common person to invest in the city when you have these enormous non-profits that aren't," Common Good President Scherhera Shearer told the Plain Dealer.

A Cleveland Clinic spokesperson told the newspaper that the provider "fully complies with all laws required of charitable organizations in the state of Ohio, including payment of any applicable taxes," and that it has provided significant funding and support for the city's school system.

Tax exemptions for non-profit hospitals have drawn more scrutiny in recent years as many have become multi-billion operations, often with sizable annual surpluses and seven-figure compensation for their top executives. In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court revoked the property tax exemption for Provenant Covenant Medical Center in Urbana, Ill. because it did not provide enough actual charity care.

To learn more:
- read the Cleveland Plain Dealer article
- here's the report (.pdf)