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.
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.
“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