Chesterton Tribune



Hospital and assessor reach agreement on appraisal

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The rift between the Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder and Porter Regional Hospital over methods to assess the 430,000 sq. ft. facility at U.S. 6 and Ind. 49 in Liberty Township ended amicably on Friday as the hospital agreed to provide most of the information requested by Snyder’s private appraiser to complete his work.

The two parties met briefly in Porter County’s Circuit Court to announce they came to an agreement late Thursday night in which the hospital will provide all but two of the 28 items for which Snyder had filed a petition of writ for production of books and records earlier this month.

Snyder’s attorney, Christopher Buckley of Gordon Etzler & Associates, said the information the hospital will provide under the terms will be sufficient for the assessor’s office to do its work in a timely manner and thanked the hospital for its cooperation.

“The appraisal will go forward as scheduled,” Buckley told the Chesterton Tribune. “We appreciate the cooperation from Porter Regional Hospital. We know it will be a good corporate citizen that will benefit the community for years to come.”

The county-owned hospital was sold to Community Health Systems of Franklin, Tenn. in 2007 which opened the Porter Regional Hospital facility last August.

County Assessor Jon Snyder hired Jack Poteet of Hospital Appraisal Services later in the fall to calculate an assessed value for next year’s tax rolls based on the hospital’s market value in-use.

Poteet requested specific documents from hospital officials but was turned down due to their concerns about Poteet’s methods of using an entrepreneurial profit assessment approach which they speculated could lead to a higher assessment. Stephen Brandenburg, an attorney hired by the hospital, argued during the July 18 court proceedings that the appraiser’s requests were unnecessary because they were not part of the state’s set guidelines for county assessors.

But in his testimony before Circuit Court Judge Pro Tem David Matsey, Snyder said he believes the state gives county assessors the authority to come up with an accurate and equitable assessment by any means necessary.

Snyder filed a subpoena against the hospital to complete the appraisal by Sept. 1 in time for assessment notices to go out to taxpayers in the fall. He said the hospital assessment is necessary for local taxing units to begin their budgeting this year and to prevent disruption of the yearly taxing process, which has had a record of being on time since 2010.

Porter Health Systems CEO Jonathan Nalli, after Snyder’s testimony, said it was not the hospital’s intention to hold up the taxing process but he wanted to know why the assessor wanted to assess the hospital in a special way.

Attorneys for the hospital on Friday said however that the hospital was “just as pleased as the County” about the compromise they reached. The assessor’s office will withdraw the subpoena it issued as part of the compromise.

Buckley said the terms under the settlement agreement entered into the official court record included:

* A copy of the “As-Built” plan for the Porter Regional Hospital

* Verification of date that ground was broken for the Porter Regional Hospital construction and the date that construction was complete.

* Verification of the actual costs to date for the construction of the real property at Porter Regional Hospital.

* Verification no further construction projects are in the works.

* Production of any documents showing material problems with the condition of the building or land including constructions defects, contamination, flooding, or environmental problems.

* A copy of the “As-Built” plan for the medical office building on the property or provide all necessary information for the assessor to issue a subpoena for said records from the owner of said documents.

* A copy of the land-lease for the medical office building.

* A copy of the lease for the space the hospital rents in the medical office building.

* The sales or purchase records for any hospital buildings (meaning in-patient care) acquired or sold by Porter Regional Hospital in Porter County during the last five years.

* A copy of the “Net Patient Revenue” and “Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, Amortization, and Rent” (or its equivalent) for 2011 and for 2012 upon such numbers being finalized.

* Verification of the number of parking spaces at the facility.

* A summary of the number and type of “licensed” and “staffed” beds in the facility including whether such beds are single or double occupancy.

* Verification as to the “unadjusted actual inpatient days” for Porter Regional Hospital in 2011 and 2012.

The items requested that the hospital will not have to produce as a result of the agreement, Buckley said, are its future projections of income and earnings.

Buckley said another part of the record entered Friday is the hospital’s intention of paying up to $20,000 in costs for the Assessor’s incurred litigation fees to transport Poteet who had been called to be a witness in the court proceedings on July 18 and Friday.

Snyder expressed his gratitude for the hospital’s willingness to pick up the tab on the incurred expenses and to bring him the documents when they are ready within the next 30 days.

“We are certainly grateful for the cooperation,” Snyder said. “We have come to an equitable agreement. Porter County businesses, homeowners, schools and public safety are all winners today as a result of this agreement,” he said, adding that no resident or business will be forced to carry any unfair tax burden.

Snyder said he takes no personal gain from this accomplishment as he is only “performing the work (he) was elected to do” which is to assess every parcel in the county.

The hospital property had been assessed at $34.2 million in March 2012 when construction was 90 percent complete. Snyder said he has heard elsewhere that the construction costs for the hospital were close to $200 million.

Posted 7/29/2013