Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Hospital tax abatement faces uncertain future

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to hold a special meeting on Thursday, June 5, at 5 p.m., to determine if a hearing is needed for the potential repeal of the 10-year tax abatement given to Porter Regional Hospital, located at Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 in Liberty Twp.

The hospital sent in its statement of benefits and compliance forms a few weeks ago but Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, and Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said they don’t believe that the standards agreed to in the resolution for the abatement that the Council adopted in 2009 have been met, particularly in the assessed value.

Whitten said it was agreed in that resolution that the hospital would build a facility with a $130 million value. The hospital has asserted the current is a bit under $40 million according the state’s guidelines for assessment.

“You can’t have an assessment for less than $40 million and have it in the (abatement) agreement for it to be $130 million. It cannot be both ways,” Whitten said.

The June 5 meeting will be a “preliminary determination” of whether the council believes there is non-compliance, said its attorney Scott McClure, by searching through all the documents it has in its possession related to the hospital.

A hearing at which the hospital can present its case would need to occur within 30 days after the Council determines if there is a need for one, he said. If the hospital cannot provide sufficient evidence for the abatement, the Council can pass a resolution to declare it is not in compliance and it would move on to an appellate court, McClure said.

In addition to the $130 million property value, hospital officials agreed under the 2009 resolution to add 126 new jobs, an additional of $7.5 million in annual salaries from those jobs, create 600 construction jobs for the 2-year construction period with an aggregate payroll of $60 million to $65 million, and install over $20 million in new equipment.

An attorney representing the hospital had told the Council in February that as of 2013 the hospital had hired 213 full-time employees since the abatement was granted with a total of $15 million in yearly salaries and $24 million for IT equipment purchases.

McClure at the Council’s April meeting said that the hospital had retained Indianapolis tax attorney Tom Atherton to work with Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder on a possible solution for the assessment. McClure told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting that the two sides are still holding discussions.

Snyder valued the hospital property, including land and improvements, at $244.5 million in 2013, which the hospital has appealed.

Biggs, who has accused hospital officials of being uncommunicative, said he hopes there is better clarity from the hospital’s side in the upcoming hearing.

Whitten agreed. “There are a lot of issues here. Let’s see if we can peel back the orange.”

McClure said it has been determined the hospital is in its third year of possible abatement (starting with its 2012 assessment) but did not submit the 322/RE forms to activate the abatement. Hospital officials would like the Council to waive the deadline for the forms and start the abatement at year one retroactively.

 

Posted 5/29/2014