VALPARAISO | Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder said the county has spent nearly $100,000 since he took office three years ago to respond to tax assessment appeals filed by Porter Regional Hospital.
As his office prepared for the next round of hospital appeals Tuesday, Snyder questioned the purpose of what has become an annual challenge to the assessment of all 17 hospital properties in the county.
"Why are they doing this?" he asked. "Why all the appeals?"
Hospital officials declined comment Monday.
Snyder said he is further baffled by the continued appeals considering the county has granted the hospital millions in ongoing tax breaks for its new building.
The hospital's latest appeal represents the first full tax assessment in 2013 of its new facility at Ind. 49 and U.S. 6. The hospital claims the property, which was assessed by the county at $244.5 million, should actually be $39.3 million.
The appeal claims the county's assessment exceeds the true value as defined by law, is not uniform with assessments of similar properties and is not based on guiding definitions, rules, procedures and instructions.
A similar appeal on the first assessment of the new hospital in 2012 backfired late last year, resulting in the Porter County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals increasing that $34 million assessed value to $117 million.
The decision was based in large part on a tax abatement document then-Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Nalli signed in 2011 and 2012 that placed the value of the building at $130 million.
The hospital appealed that decision downstate earlier this month.
The Porter County Council plans to take up the tax break issue at the hospital at its meeting Thursday.
Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th, said hospital officials will be asked to prove they have complied with requirements for the tax abatement, which include creating a certain number of new jobs and investing money into the site.
There is also question as to whether the abatement applies to an out-patient building at the hospital site.
The council has yet to determine if the 10-year tax breaks took effect when the agreement was approved in 2009 or later, when the new hospital was complete. The issue is key because a later starting point would mean greater savings to the hospital because its assessed value rose once construction at the site was done.