Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of In Re: Appeal of West Allegheny Hospital, from the action of the Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County on property situate on Old Steubenville Pike, North Fayette Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, No. G.D. 75-3752.
D. R. Pellegrini, with him W. Theodore Brooks, Brooks & Ewalt, for appellant.
Samuel Y. Stroh, P.C., with him Raymond H. Bogaty, William J. Fahey, and John M. Silvestri, for appellee.
Judges Mencer, MacPhail and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino. Judge MacPhail dissents.
[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 557]
West Allegheny School District appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which sustained the consolidated appeals of West Allegheny Hospital (West Allegheny) from a denial of real estate tax exemptions by the Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County (Board). We reverse the order of the court of common pleas and deny a tax exemption to West Allegheny.
On April 5, 1956, West Allegheny was chartered as a non-profit corporation. Through an application filed June 2, 1966, and a supplemental application filed June 7, 1974, West Allegheny sought a tax exemption for a building purchased for use as a medical facility. In January of 1975 the Board denied West Allegheny's requested exemption. On March 1, 1974, West Allegheny filed an application for a tax exemption covering an edifice newly constructed as part of its health complex. This application was denied by the Board on April 23, 1974. The appeals of West Allegheny from the Board's denials of tax-exempt status were consolidated before the court of common pleas which held that West Allegheny qualified for tax exemptions as a purely public charity. We disagree.
To be eligible for an exemption pursuant to Article VIII, Section 2 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania*fn1 and Section 204 of The General
[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 558]
County Assessment Law, Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5020-204,*fn2 an institution "'must affirmatively show that the entire institution, (1) is one of "purely public charity"; (2) was founded by public or private charity; (3) is maintained by public or private charity.'" Robert Morris College v. Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review, 5 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 648, 656, 291 A.2d 567, 572 (1972) (quoting Woods Schools Tax Exemption Case, 406 Pa. 579, 584, 178 A.2d 600, 602 (1962)); Point Park Junior College v. Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County, 23 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 367, 351 A.2d 707 (1976). "This Court has more recently restated the requisite characteristics which an institution must prove [as] . . . freedom from a private profit motive, significant charitable support for the institution, and provision of charitable services through . . . financial assistance." Wayne County Board of Assessment v. Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, 43 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 508, 511, 403 A.2d 613, 615 (1979).
Because the taxation of real estate is the rule and exemption is the exception, statutory provisions providing exemptions from taxation are strictly construed against the taxpayer. S.D. Richman Sons, Inc. v. Board of Finance and Revenue, 53 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 110, 416 A.2d 1161 (1980); Appeal of Doctor's Hospital, 51 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 31, 414 A.2d 134 (1980); Section 1928(b)(5) of the Statutory Construction Act of 1972, 1 Pa. C.S. § 1928(b)(5). "The resolution of whether an institution is a 'purely public charity' is a mixed question of law and fact and each
[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 559]
case must be decided on its unique factual composition." Appeal of Doctor's Hospital, 51 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. at 34-35, 414 A.2d at 316; Appeal of Marple Newtown School ...