Nonprofit Newswire | Who’s on First? Who Cares, Give Us Your PILOTs

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September 11, 2010; Source: Scranton Times-Tribune |We have previously written about the Scranton City Council’s somewhat ham-handed approach to getting tax revenues out of tax exempt nonprofit property owners, beginning with the University of Scranton.

Scranton’s still at it, with the same discombobulated approach they used when trying to hold the University hostage as it tried to build a dorm last July. Now it appears that Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and the City Council have contacted nonprofit property owners to get them to ante up payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs). There’s a slight problem. The Mayor and the Council made their contacts in complete ignorance of each other.

Neither the Mayor’s office nor the Council communicated with each other, informed each other, or coordinated their nonprofit exactions strategy. The Mayor’s outreach for PILOTs included targets such as the American Red Cross of Lackawanna County, Johnson College, Lackawanna College, Marywood University, Moses Taylor Hospital, Mercy Hospital and Community Medical Center. Council members have talked with Lackawanna College, for example, and tried to talk to hospitals and colleges. Neither set of leaders has consummated any PILOT deals.

Why is it that the dynamic between Mayor Doherty leading the executive branch and Council President Evans leading the legislative side of city government doesn’t inspire confidence in the city’s public policy decision-making process? It’s hard to take the process seriously when the city’s two most powerful officials seem to be acting out Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine.—Rick Cohen