While satisfied with the $244.5 million assessment of Porter Regional Hospital, Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder was having a tough time understanding how the state came up with a figure of less than half that amount for the much-larger ArcelorMittal plant.
The buildings and 1,820-acre site at the Burns Harbor mill was assessed by the state at $112.3 million, according to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.
"It raises significant questions," Snyder said.
He said he had a private appraiser carry out the hospital assessment on behalf of his office because of the complexities involved and to better position the county in preparation for the hospital again appealing its assessment of the site at northwest corner of Ind. 49 and U.S. 6.
"What would it hurt to have an independent third-party to review it?" he said of ArcelorMittal.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, who authored legislation requiring county assessor's to gain unanimous approval from the County Council before appealing a state assessment, did not share Snyder's concern over the differences in the assessments.
Assessing a steel mill is much tougher than determining the worth of a hospital, he said, and different approaches are needed. Steel mills have more unique features than hospitals.
"Bottom line is, what can you sell it for?" he said.
The DLGF voiced confidence in its assessment of ArcelorMittal when contacted last week.
"The assessment was conducted according to generally accepted assessment practices, and these practices have been deemed valid when appealed to reviewing authorities," said DLGF Director of Communications Jenny Banks.
"Additionally, the assessment for Mittal Burns Harbor has not been appealed by the assessor or the taxpayer in recent years," she said.
The state took over the job of assessing willing steelmakers years ago because county assessors were inflating the numbers, Soliday said. The mills were forced to spend a lot of money to appeal, he said.
The appeals also cost the counties money to defend, which is the reason Soliday said he pursued the legislation requiring prior approval from the local fiscal body.
He said it is very unlikely state lawmakers would agree to overturn state control of the steel mill assessments.
Soliday said he has heard no talk about having the state take over the job of assessing hospitals.
Hospital officials never responded to a request last week for comment on the assessment, which was the first carried out since the hospital opened its doors in August 2012. They have 45 days from last Monday to decide whether to appeal the assessment.