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decided: February 18, 1976.


Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in cases of Point Park Junior College v. Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review of Allegheny County, Nos. 795 July Term, 1964 and 1788 July Term, 1965.


Richard B. Tucker, Jr., with him William J. Staley, John P. Papuga, and Tucker, Arensberg & Ferguson, for appellant.

John G. Arch, Assistant County Solicitor, with him Stephan A. Zappala, County Solicitor, for appellee, Board.

Bernice Hummert, with her Joseph A. Fricker, Jr., Assistant City Solicitor, and Mead J. Mulvihill, Jr., City Solicitor, for appellee, City of Pittsburgh.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Kramer.

Author: Kramer

[ 23 Pa. Commw. Page 369]

This is an appeal by Point Park Junior College (now Point Park College) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County dated November 30, 1973, dismissing the appeals of Point Park from decisions of the Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County. The Board had denied Point Park's application for tax-exempt status for two parcels of realty located in the City of Pittsburgh. The tax period to which these appeals are limited is the 1963-65 triennium, and the two appeals were consolidated for trial and for appeal to this Court. The issue presented to us is whether Point Park qualifies for tax-exempt status as a purely public charity. We hold that it does.

In 1933, Dr. Dorothy C. Finkelhor founded a private, proprietary school known as Business Training College (BTC). BTC was operated by Dr. Finkelhor and her husband, L. Herbert Finkelhor, at a number of different locations in the City of Pittsburgh, and provided training primarily in secretarial and other related business skills. As a result of the loss of a lease in 1956, the Finkelhors negotiated to purchase an eight-story hardware and warehouse building known as the Woodwell Building. They, together with their three daughters, formed the Carjonon Land Company which purchased that building for $151,000. After extensive renovation which cost $484,480.21, the Finkelhors used the building for the operation of BTC and other educational ventures, through a lease arrangement with Carjonon. The building was also partially renovated at a cost of $175,000 by the Y.W.C.A., a tenant. This amount was credited against the Y.W.C.A.'s rent payments to Carjonon. The purchase included a lot 70 feet by 34 feet adjoining the property.

By the late 1950s the curriculum of BTC had developed to a point where it was, for practical purposes, a liberal arts college, although it was unable to grant baccalaureate degrees and the credits awarded to its students

[ 23 Pa. Commw. Page 370]

    were not transferable to other colleges and universities. In response to the needs of her students, Dr. Finkelhor decided to reorganize BTC as a junior college, which would permit the granting of associate degrees and the possible transfer of credits. The Finkelhors and their daughters made application for a nonprofit corporation charter and on November 21, 1960, the charter was granted after approval by the Pennsylvania Council on Education. The approval was granted on the conditions that four of the seven directors would not be related to the Finkelhors and that Point Park would purchase Carjonon's title to the Woodwell Building for a price based upon the fair rental value for ten years or the appraised value, whichever was lower.

On February 1, 1961, Carjonon sold the Woodwell Building property to Point Park for $840,000 under a ten-year installment sale agreement which carried no interest payments. The college paid $7,000 per month. Title vested in the college after a two-year period at which time final payment was made crediting the monthly payments made. Under the agreement of sale, Carjonon paid the taxes, insurance premiums and mortgage payments during the two years prior to the vesting of title. At the same time BTC entered into an installment contract with the college for the sale of its furniture and equipment for $70,000 payable over a six-year period in monthly installments of $1,166.66. This agreement also provided for no interest charge. At the time Point Park commenced operation on February 1, 1961, it had vested interests in a building, furniture and equipment under these two transactions. It had also acquired, in addition to these physical assets, a going business together with its administrative staff, faculty, student enrollment and good will without any additional payments. Except for its commitment for the land, furniture and equipment, Point Park did not incur any indebtedness to the Finkelhors, Carjonon, or BTC, nor did it assume any of their

[ 23 Pa. Commw. Page 371]

    debts. Later Point Park received an exempt organization certification from the United States Internal Revenue Service upon the condition that the corporate charter be amended to provide that upon dissolution the assets of Point Park "shall be distributed for educational purposes, or for one or more of the other purposes specified in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code." The corporate charter was so amended.

On July 25, 1962, Point Park purchased from Carjonon the adjoining lot mentioned above (included in Carjonon's initial purchase of the Woodwell Building), together with another lot for the total price of $75,000. The second college building involved in this case (Thayer Hall) was built by Point Park on these two lots. The second lot was purchased by Carjonon for $35,500 and had the same dimensions as the vacant lot originally purchased with the Woodwell Building. ...

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