What’s a new hospital worth? In Porter County, it’s debatable
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent February 25, 2014 1:40PM
Porter Regional Hospital
Updated: February 26, 2014 2:10AM
VALPARAISO — The value of Porter Regional Hospital was up for debate again before the Porter County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals on Tuesday.
This time, the issue was the hospital’s value last year.
Assessor Jon Snyder said the value of the hospital on March 1, 2013, was $244.5 million, far greater than the $39 million hospital officials claim.
“The taxpayers of Porter County would suffer a severe injustice” in lost tax revenue with a $39 million assessed valuation, Snyder said. “Hence the debate over what the value of the hospital should be.”
Hospital officials originally planned to appeal the assessment for the new hospital, at U.S. 6 and Ind. 49, and 10 other properties, including the old hospital, formerly owned by the county, at 814 LaPorte Ave. The additional properties were pulled from the hearing agenda at the last minute.
Hospital officials already are appealing the board’s ruling on the hospital’s value for 2012 to the Indiana Board of Tax Review. That followed a December ruling by the property tax appeals board that set the new hospital’s assessment at $117 million.
Snyder had set the hospital’s value at $34 million and hospital officials appealed, at which point the property tax appeals board determined that the hospital’s value should have been $117 million as of March 1, 2012.
This time around, Don Feicht, vice president of taxation for Uzelac and Associates, which is representing the hospital, said the assessment was not done under the guidelines established by the 2011 Real Property Assessment Manual and Guidelines, drafted by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.
Snyder also went beyond the scope of those guidelines by hiring an independent appraiser to determine the hospital’s value.
“True tax value does not mean fair market value,” Feicht said.
But Snyder said the guidelines, which include a property’s cost, sales comparison with similar structures, and income, also can include an outside appraisal.
The board is expected to decide at a later meeting. Member Nick Sommer has recused himself from hearings on the hospital because he has a business relationship with the facility.
The hospital’s assessed valuation will come up again at Thursday’s County Council meeting, as the council discusses when a 10-year tax abatement granted to the hospital in 2009 should begin.
There, too, hospital officials and the county have been at odds, over whether the tax abatement on the facility should have started March 1, 2012, before it opened, or on March 1, 2013, when it had been open just over six months.
Auditor Bob Wichlinski said he would have on hand for the meeting an illustrative 2013 tax bill for the hospital, based on an assessed value of $244.5 million, so the council knows the value of the abatement.