The legal tussle over a property tax appraisal for Porter Regional Hospital pits the hospital officials against Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder. It shouldn't have to be that way, however.
In a lawsuit over the hospital's property tax assessment, Snyder testified he needed an outside appraiser to assist his office in getting the right value for the hospital because it's a unique operation in the county.
The lawsuit is an attempt to get Porter Hospital LLC to release documentation Snyder said is required for the appraisal.
Hospital attorney Stephen Brandenburg called the information requested by Snyder's office "incredibly over broad and unnecessary for the assessment."
Snyder hired Jack Poteet, of Hospital Appraisal Services of Kansas City, Mo., to conduct the assessment. Brandenburg said Snyder wasn't following Indiana Department of Local Government Finance in hiring Poteet.
But the county assessor said expert help is needed.
"There is something wrong when the hospital and the building permit says the value is $200 million and the state numbers are $34 million," Snyder said, referring to a 2012 assessment done before the new hospital was completed.
Assessing a for-profit hospital's value is tricky because they are so unusual. This situation might be unusual for Porter County, but not for Indiana.
The same is true for refineries, steel mills, auto plants and other large operations.
Local officials might not have the expertise to conduct the assessment of these unusual properties.
The tussle over Porter Regional Hospital is evidence of the need for Indiana to rethink the appraisal process for properties that might be unique within a county.
Because of the training and specialized knowledge involved in preparing to assess these types of properties, let the state do that job instead of the locals.