Miami-Dade County

Charities don’t pay property taxes. That pinches some city budgets more than others.

The Cor Jesu Chapel at Barry University in Miami Shores.
The Cor Jesu Chapel at Barry University in Miami Shores. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

By one measure of charity, the village of Miami Shores tops the list in Miami-Dade. No municipality has a larger share of its tax roll occupied by nonprofits exempt from property taxes.

Home to Barry University, the bayside village has about 11 percent of its properties protected by the tax exemption given to charities across the country. The rule frees hospitals, churches, universities and other private nonprofits from paying property taxes to local governments.

And while almost every local government sees some lost revenue from the charity tax break, none comes close to the Miami Shores share of nonprofit exemptions.

The list offers a detailed look at just one tax break when it comes to property taxes. Homeowners themselves enjoy the homestead exemption, which knocks $50,000 off of a property’s taxable value if the owner lives there full time. Governments also don’t pay property taxes on real estate they own.

The city of Homestead, home to Baptist’s Homestead Hospital, finished second in terms of charity exemptions, with about 8 percent of its real estate value shielded from taxes because of nonprofit ownership. North Miami, home to Johnson & Wales University, finished third, at about 6 percent.

Miami Shores doesn’t have more nonprofits than other jurisdictions. Tax records show just 24 institutional exemptions in Miami Shores, compared to 63 in North Miami, 89 in Homestead and a whopping 705 in Miami. But while only about 3 percent of the properties countywide are exempt because of charity ownership, the share in Miami Shores is 11.3 percent.

The combination of a relatively small town — Miami Shores has about 11,000 people, compared to more than 400,000 for Miami — with a sizable private college magnifies the impact Barry University has on its home city’s tax roll.

The nonprofit school reports an enrollment of about 8,000, and its 125-acre campus is valued at roughly $90 million, according to property appraiser records. That alone represents about 7 percent of the $1.3 billion assessed value of Miami Shores’ total property inventory, which spans about 1,600 acres.

Tom Benton, the village manager of Miami Shores, said there’s no missing the impact Barry has on the municipality’s tax rolls. But he noted the school makes some tax-like payments on the old Biscayne Dog Track, which the university bought in the late 1990s. And while Barry gets a significant break on property taxes, Benton said Miami Shores benefits extensively from being home to the university.

“They are an integral part of our community,” he said. “It’s an employment center. It’s definitely an asset. We’re happy to have Barry within our limits.”

Barry’s Office of the President issued a statement on the issue of property taxes that read in part: “As a not-for-profit university, Barry University is treated with respect to real estate taxes in the same way as all other not-for-profit organizations. … Many Barry faculty, staff and students live in the Village and contribute to the economic vibrancy of the community by frequenting area businesses and paying taxes.”

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