Chesterton Tribune



Assessor challenges assessment while hospital attempts to withdraw appeal

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A tax specialist representing Porter Health tried to withdraw the appeal made in 2012 on the new hospital at U.S. 6 and Ind. 49 in Liberty Twp. during Tuesday’s Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals but the case will now move forward as Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder disagrees with the value his office came up with using the state’s methods.

Porter Regional Hospital was assessed at $34.1 million for the March 2012 assessment date when the hospital was said to be at 90 percent construction.

For the hospital, Donald Feicht, Jr., Vice-president of Taxation for Uzelac & Associates, informed the PTABOA of the intention to drop the appeal but it was not accepted, as Snyder and PTABOA attorney Chris Buckley said that state law asks that a petitioner give notice of at least eight days before a hearing.

Feicht said he had no evidence to present for the appeal and that the hospital is willing to accept the assessment because the assessor’s office had figured it using the state’s model for assessments.

Snyder contended however that the hospital should be assessed higher, based on what he has gathered as “evidence.” First, Snyder submitted a number of news articles quoting statements made during the hospital’s construction purporting the cost to be $210-225 million.

Next, Snyder said there was no way that his office could use a market-comparison approach because there were no local sales of hospitals relatable to Porter in an area. His office did look at four different hospitals sold in places such as New York City and Tulsa, for which sale prices ranged from $218 to $874 per square foot.

“It’s tough to find sales (on hospitals) and the verification process is difficult as well,” said John Yanek who works as the appeals director in the assessor’s office.

Also, Snyder provided the PTABOA with copies of the hospital’s abatement filings from 2011 and 2012 signed by Porter CEO Jonathan Nalli, which indicated the real property of the hospital was valued at $130 million. If so, then the value at 90 percent completion would equal around $117 million.

The $34.1 million assessment figure was produced by classifying the hospital as “general office space,” but Snyder disagrees that reflects the building’s market-based value, labeling the hospital as a “unique” property.

“I think that’s where the model goes awry,” Snyder said.

Rebutting, Feicht said Snyder was making his assertions based on hearsay from the media and argued that cost is not the same as assessed value.

Feicht contended that the state assessment model does classify “very clearly” that hospitals are considered office buildings and therefore should be assessed as such.

He also argued that Snyder needed to have permission from the state if he was going to deviate from the standards, but Snyder said he believes the guidelines allow him to use any method to get an accurate assessment.

Feicht said that had Porter officials known they were going to have their property values assessed in a way not according to state approved methods, they in retrospect would have second thoughts about building its new hospital in Porter County.

“Porter may not have built the hospital here if they knew that they were going to be taxed differently,” he said.

Snyder said it is his job to make fair and accurate assessments on all parcels and said he has given more care to the hospital assessment than to any other property in the County while in office. He said he’s tried to obtain other records regarding the costs but the hospital has not provided those to him.

With PTABOA member Nick Sommer excused from the proceedings due to a professional relationship with the hospital, board president Joe Wszolek and member Vicki Urbanik said they will seek to obtain a copy of the 2007 public sale of the former hospital in Valparaiso between Porter County officials and Porter Health’s parent company Community Health Systems to get a feel for what the market value may be.

PTABOA boards can set their own assessment on a property which then can be appealed to the Indiana Board of Tax Review.

Wszolek and Urbanik also asked Buckley to provide the laws that state what methods county assessors can use. They plan to continue the proceedings at the Dec. 16 meeting.

At the start of the meeting Tuesday, Wszolek made clear that the case is not about the hospital’s 2013 assessment appeal. That appeal was filed about two weeks ago contending that the hospital’s current assessed value should be $37.5 million on its real property, more than $200 million less than what the County assessed it at.

Porter was permitted to drop appeals on ten of its other parcels including the Chesterton Medical Campus at 650 Dickinson Road.

Feicht did contest the March 2012 assessment of the former hospital campus in Valparaiso saying the $22.3 million it was assessed should have been $4.75 million at the time Porter was in the process of moving to its new facility.



Posted 11/29/2013