Chesterton Tribune

 

 

County Council member Whitten wants answers on hospital tax abatement

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Council member Dan Whitten, D-At Large, is on a fact-finding mission to determine when Porter Regional Hospital actually began its 10-year tax abatement granted by the County.

Whitten brought up the issue of the hospital after the Council approved continuing a tax abatement with the Family Express facility in Morgan Twp. at the start of Tuesday evening’s County Council meeting. The hospital abatement is of interest to him, he said, because of the talk by the Redevelopment Commission and other officials of possibly putting a tax increment finance (TIF) district on the hospital property that could capture part of the hospital assessment as the abatement declines.

“There are some things that I would like to find out,” he said.

Whitten said he assumed that the tax abatement was to start immediately after the Council voted unanimously to approve the tax breaks, which took place at a special meeting on Sept. 10, 2009. The other opinion Whitten’s heard is that the abatement was to begin after the hospital completed its construction in 2012.

If the latter is true, then the hospital stands to pay less taxes because the assessment would be larger, Whitten said.

“They’re saying one thing and we’re saying the other,” he said.

Council attorney Scott McClure told Whitten he would look into getting Whitten’s question answered and see where the assessments have been in time for the Council’s next meeting in July.

McClure said he believes the abatements were to start as soon as the hospital property started paying taxes for property assessments.

Although it is not mentioned in the minutes from that September 10, 2009 meeting, the Chesterton Tribune article that followed says that the attorney for the hospital, James Crawford, had told the Tribune that the abatement would kick in once the hospital completed its construction and its assessment was determined, which he told the Tribune would be likely for tax bills payable in 2012 or 2013.

According to the minutes, Crawford said that with the tax abatement, the assessed value would be gradually phased in until year eleven when the hospital would be paying 100 percent of taxes on real and personal property. Crawford projected that $12.4 million would be abated over the ten-year period.

The County Assessor’s Office has been working to determine a proper assessment of the hospital and hired a private firm in November to do an appraisal.

The Council’s budget specialist Vickie Urbanik told the members Tuesday that County Assessor Jon Snyder informed her that his office is still waiting on the final appraisal report.

Snyder told the Tribune this morning the appraisal will for this year’s assessment which will be determined in the fall. He said the hospital did appeal its March 2012 assessment when construction was 90 percent complete and it “could be years yet” before it is resolved since the state is backlogged.

Snyder said he had a copy of a four-page declaratory resolution on the abatement dated Aug. 24, 2009, where it mentions the County can charge the hospital an annual fee related to the property taxes or $100,000, whichever is the lesser amount, during the abatement period but nowhere could he find information on when the abatement was supposed to kick in.

“I guess that would have to be up to legal interpretation,” he said.

 

 

Posted 6/26/2013