Chesterton Tribune



County Assessor goes to court to get hospital assessment information

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Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder is hoping to get some help from the county’s circuit court to complete property assessments on the 225,000 square-foot Porter Regional Hospital located on U.S. 6 and Ind. 49 in Liberty Township.

In what he refers to as “a last ditch attempt,” Snyder filed a petition for a writ of production of books and records with Judge Mary Harper’s court on Tuesday against Porter Hospital LLC to get the information he needs to complete an accurate assessment needed for next year’s tax rolls and the County Council’s budgeting process.

The hold-up with the hospital could disrupt on-time tax bills next year for the entire county if a total assessed value cannot be established, Snyder told the Tribune, and other issues could arise with tax rates and distributions for 2013 pay 2014 assessments.

“This would affect all of our taxing units, especially the folks out in Liberty Township,” Snyder said.

According to Snyder’s petition since August 2012, when the hospital opened, the assessor’s office and his agents have “conducted numerous attempts,” by telephone and by letter, to gain information such as floor plans and square footage to facilitate a proper appraisal, but that hospital officials have “refused to comply with said requests.”

Snyder retained a private appraiser, from Hospital Appraisal Services LLC of Overland Park, Kan., in November to do the appraisal.

The petition also states that the assessor’s attorney Christopher Buckley had sent a subpoena in late March but got only a partial response from the hospital two months later and did not provide all the records needed to complete the appraisal.

In order to prepare a timely appraisal report of the hospital property, the petition requests that the hospital give the requested documents to Snyder’s appraiser no later than Aug. 1.

The petition is set for a hearing at 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 18, in Harper’s courtroom.

A period of 30 days is minimum to conduct the appraisal which is required to complete the budgeting process for the Form 11 assessment notices that are mailed to taxpayers in the fall, according to Snyder. “Time is of the essence,” he said.

Snyder said that information he needs is confidential and will not be shared with the public, but still the hospital has refused to turn over the records.

He said that every year since he took office in 2011, the hospital has appealed its assessments on every parcel it owns.

The most recent assessment was made in March 2012 at $34.2 million when the hospital had completed 90 percent of its construction. There is a dispute brewing with at least one member of the County Council as to when the hospital’s ten-year tax abatement is supposed to begin.

County Council attorney Scott McClure said he believes the abatement was supposed to begin when the property started being assessed while an attorney representing the hospital said the abatement would kick in once the new facility opened for business.

Hospital officials have declined to make comments to the press regarding both the appraisal and the abatement.

Snyder said it is his oath of office to assess every parcel in the county in a fair and equitable manner.

“It is important that (Porter Hospital LLC), similar to all taxpayers, assist with these types of requests. Because of this lack of cooperation, a court action is necessary,” he said.

Posted 7/3/2013