By Michelle Crouch
Every year, Terry Taylor-Allen and her husband, William, pay property taxes on their bungalow in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood. Although the bill has skyrocketed since they moved in 30 years ago, they know the money supports schools, police and other important services.
The owner of the houses next door, meanwhile, don’t pay a cent on those homes.
That’s because the houses on either side of them are owned by The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, a governmental entity otherwise known as Atrium Health.
Because it’s a hospital authority, Atrium — which had $8.9 billion in revenue in 2021 — does not have to pay taxes on property it owns in Charlotte and across the region.
That’s true even if the land isn’t used for medical purposes.
In fact, one tax-exempt Atrium property in Cornelius is home to a PDQ Tenders chicken restaurant. You’ll pay taxes when you buy the chicken tenders, but Atrium doesn’t pay taxes on the land the restaurant sits on.
Charlotte’s other health care giant, Novant Health, also gets significant tax exemptions. Because it’s a nonprofit hospital and not a public one, it gets a tax break only on property it can show it is using for its charitable purpose.
“If you think about the cumulative total of everything (the hospitals) have taken off the tax rolls over the years, that’s a Godzilla number,” said Taylor-Allen, who lives on Fountain View next to the site where Atrium’s Carolinas Medical Center is expanding. “Think about all the school needs and how much that money could help low-income people who don’t have health care, housing or food.”
As Mecklenburg County officials discuss a possible tax increase this year, a Charlotte Ledger/N.C. Health News analysis reveals that the two hospitals now own properties assessed at more than $2.4 billion — but which is tax-exempt — in Mecklenburg County alone. That’s based on 2022 assessed values; it’s likely worth more based on the 2023 values recently mailed out.
If Atrium and Novant were fully taxed in 2022, they would have been Mecklenburg County’s fourth- and fifth-largest property taxpayers, respectively, after only Duke Energy, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. And they would have contributed an additional $23 million to the city and county tax base, according to calculations using 2022 assessed values and tax rates.
That’s enough to pay the salaries of 527 entry-level teachers in