Auditor Bob Wichlinski told the County Council at its meeting Tuesday he is
ready to mail Porter Regional Hospital tax bills totaling over $5.5 million
based on the values the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals has
assigned for 2012 and 2013.
The PTABOA ruled
for the values to be $117 million and $244.5 million, respectively.
The revenue will be
distributed appropriately among the respective taxing units, he said. The
hospital is located in Liberty Twp. and within the Duneland School District
at U.S. 6 and Ind. 49.
there will likely be modifications over time as the hospital has appealed
the two assessments to the Indiana Board of Tax Review, but he will issue
the bill according to the information he’s received from the assessor’s
The County and the
hospital have yet to agree, however, on what the assessed values should be
for those two years, which also plays a part in setting the ten-year
Scott McClure said the hospital has retained Indianapolis Tax Attorney Tom
Atherton to work on a solution to the abatement dispute with the County
Assessor Jon Snyder. The parties met earlier in the day and had a
“productive discussion” dealing with the issue, although no agreement came
out of it, McClure said. He encouraged the Council to allow the conversation
to continue as the next step in resolving the abatement.
“We’ve come further
in the last 30 days than we have in two years,” McClure said.
representatives from Porter Hospital’s parent company, Community Health
Systems, just recently, McClure said hospital officials have heard the
points made by the Council and are looking at the issues with “a fresh set
“I think they
understand that time is of the essence and the Council will not lead this
into becoming a negative issue,” he said.
from Porter Hospital were not present at Tuesday’s Council meeting, but in
ongoing discussions McClure said it has been determined the ten-year tax
abatement should have begun in the 2012 assessment year just as PRH was
The hospital failed
to file the 322/RE form required to start the abatement, but it can request
the Council waive the missed deadline, he added.
determination made was that the 60,000 sq. ft. medical office building
attached to PRH is not part of the abatement because the building’s owner,
the Sanders Realty Trust, had not petitioned the Council, McClure said.
The Council does
not have the responsibility of deciding the assessment but its objective is
to judge whether the hospital is in compliance with the terms of the
abatement granted in 2009, said council president Dan Whitten, D-at large.
One of those
provisions is that the hospital structure would have to be valued at $130
million or more and it would not be compliant if the value was $39 million,
he said, which is the value PRH is asserting in its latest assessment
Whitten and Council
Vice-President Karen Conover, R-3rd, sent a letter to PRH representatives
telling them to agree to a $130 million or higher for the building’s value
or give up the abatement.
The County Assessor
valued the hospital at $34 million in 2012 when it was 90 percent complete
and $244.5 million last year with the assistance of an outside appraiser.
Last week, the
hospital appealed the PTABOA’s decision on the 2013 assessment but, McClure
said, that should not be taken as a sign the hospital is purposely going
against the terms of the abatement, because it had a specific time frame in
which to file an appeal to the IBTR.
“A hair more” in
Robert Poparad, D-at large, said he wanted to know if Porter has ever paid a
tax to which Wichlinski responded it paid on the 2012 assessment, based on
Wichlinski said he
billed the hospital for $34 million the following year because when a
taxpayer appeals their assessment, they are required by law to pay whatever
the amount they previously agreed to.
Poparad then asked
Wichlinski what assessed values of the hospital were put into the overall AV
for each of those years.
With a lower
assessment figure, Poparad said it would mean higher tax rates for those
living in Duneland like himself. “We paid a hair more for what was not put
into Duneland’s AV.”
Wichlinski said $34
million was included in the net AV in 2012 and $39 million in 2013 because
those were the figures he had from the Assessor when he came up with the net
assessed value to send on to the state. He said he did not put in the $117
million or the $244.5 million assessments because of the risk of
shortchanging the taxing units if the hospital was successful in their
appeals and the money had to be refunded.
Not being able to
collect the hospital funds would mean the taxing units relying on that money
would have less than anticipated, he added.
When asked by the
Chesterton Tribune after the meeting if residential taxpayers in
Duneland would ever see any benefits with the additional revenue from the
hospital, Wichlinski said they would in the long run because if a taxing
unit has a surplus of funds, it lowers the tax rate.
said he would like to make it clear that he does not control the abatement
or the assessment. He said his sole charge is to calculate and issue the tax