Hospital district not weighing in on suit

From The Weatherford Democrat, by Christin Coyne, 10/22/15 –

hospitalDespite owning the land and building in dispute and facing the possibility of losing $85,000, the Parker County Hospital District is not weighing in on a lawsuit involving the taxable value of the hospital.

Weatherford Texas Hospital Company, a subsidiary of Community Health Systems, is suing the appraisal district, arguing that the taxable value of the hospital should be approximately $35 million rather than $60 million, which the district has valued the property at since 2012, according to Parker County Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Larry Hammonds.

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The district’s attorney, Brian Jackson, said they have not weighed in and are not planning to.

“Because we don’t know what it’s worth,” Jackson said.

Both Weatherford College, which may be required to give a tax refund of about $85,000, and Parker County, which has about $310,000 on the line, have asked the appraisal district not to settle with the hospital company.

Weatherford ISD could also lose $1 million and the City of Weatherford approximately $352,000.

When Community Health Systems signed a 30-year-lease with the district in 2006 for $50 million, it was “extremely important” to the district that the company pay property taxes, Jackson said.

“No property tax was paid on the hospital prior to that time because it was owned and operated by a government entity,” Jackon said. “We wanted the other governmental entities to benefit by a private corporation coming in to operate the hospital.”

Ordinarily only the landowner can protest the value of the property.

Since the company was going to be paying taxes to the district based on the appraisal district’s value, Community Health Systems asked that the district delegate the ability to protest the taxes.

The district does not have any input on the tax protest process at all and was not  aware of the ongoing lawsuit for three years, according to Jackson.

“Even if I had known, we couldn’t have stopped it,” Jackson said. “We’re really not the party. It’s just through us.”

The Democrat Thursday afternoon emailed questions to the hospital company’s attorney, Carolyn Maly, but did not receive a response by deadline.

CHS has made representations to the public about the amount of money spent on the expansion of the hospital facilities.

In November, the eighth year since CHS took over operations, a press release noted that the company had completed more than $60 million in renovations and additions.

In April 2011, approximately a year and a half before the hospital operators filed the lawsuit against the appraisal district, the medical center told the community at a  groundbreaking event that a $22.3 million expansion was planned over the next year.

Hammonds told the Democrat in September that the hospital did not protest when the assessed value jumped from less than $19 million to $41.1 million in 2010 after a $27 million addition.

However, after the 2011 remodel and expansion – including the addition of 52 private rooms, a third floor, a cardiac catheterization lab and advanced endoscopy suite – the appraisal jumped to $60 million, which the hospital contested.

Hammonds called the appraisal value somewhat conservative.

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