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PITTSBURGH INSTITUTE AERONAUTICS TAX EXEMPTION CASE (11/11/69)

decided: November 11, 1969.

PITTSBURGH INSTITUTE OF AERONAUTICS TAX EXEMPTION CASE


Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1968, No. 3281, in re appeal of Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics from action of Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review.

COUNSEL

Leonard M. Mendelson, with him Edward C. Leckey and William S. Hays, for appellant.

Sheldon L. Keyser, Assistant County Solicitor, with him Maurice Louik, County Solicitor, for county, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Roberts and Mr. Justice Pomeroy concur in the result.

Author: Jones

[ 435 Pa. Page 621]

The issue on this appeal is whether Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA), which operates a school for the training of aeronautic mechanics and technicians, is exempt from local taxation. The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County held that it was not tax exempt and the propriety of that ruling is before us.

PIA, a nonprofit corporation, is located at the Allegheny County Airport upon land which it leases from the County of Allegheny and upon which are PIA-owned buildings and improvements which are sought to be taxed. It was incorporated in 1945, with the initial capital being provided by the sale of five hundred shares of stock at $10.00 per share: upon dissolution of the corporation, the articles of incorporation provide that these shareholders will be repaid, without interest. With the exception of a large amount of equipment given the school by the Federal Government, the only other capitalization of the corporation was provided in 1960, when William J. Graham, one of the incorporators, donated a life insurance policy having a cash surrender value of $13,000.00. The training equipment used by the school has been donated by the Federal Government, and, according to PIA, had a value of about $4,000,000.00 when received by the school.

Twenty-eight full-time teachers are employed by the school in training the 816 students, 605 of whom are full time. This number has increased steadily from 1961, when PIA had 341 students. The tuition, books

[ 435 Pa. Page 622]

    and supplies for the twenty-one month course cost the students about $2,830.00. Some of these students are able to obtain partial scholarships from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and from 1967 through 1969, these scholarships accounted for approximately 4% of the tuition that was paid to PIA. The school itself provides partial scholarships to a negligible number of students -- a total of ten from 1966 through 1969.

PIA claims to be exempt from local real estate taxation on the basis that it is a purely public charity within the scope of the Act of May 22, 1933, P. L. 853, § 204, 72 P.S. § 5020-204, which provides as follows: "The following property shall be exempt from all county, city, borough, town, township, road, poor and school tax, to wit: . . . (c) All hospitals, universities, colleges, seminaries, academies, associations and institutions of learning, benevolence, or charity . . . founded, endowed, and maintained by public or private charity: Provided, That the entire revenue derived by the same be applied to the support and to increase the efficiency and facilities thereof, the repair and the necessary increase of grounds and buildings thereof, and for no other purpose . . . ." This statute was passed pursuant to Article 8, § 2 (a) of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, which states: "The General Assembly may by law exempt from taxation . . . . (v) Institutions of purely public charity . . . ."

In the interpretation of the statute, certain principles of law have been well settled. First, the burden of bringing himself within the statute lies with the one claiming exemption: Wynnefield United Presbyterian Church v. City of Philadelphia, 348 Pa. 252, 35 A.2d 276 (1944). Second, statutes which exempt real estate from taxation must be strictly construed against the ...


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