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No decision yet on Jackson hospital appeal

No decision yet on Jackson hospital appeal

The jury is still out on a property tax challenge being waged by Harris Regional Hospital, which claims its property is only worth a quarter of what the county says it is.

Jackson County’s property tax office has pegged the value of Harris Regional Hospital and its related medical offices at $48.9 million — with its main 77-acre campus accounting for $42.3 million of that. The hospital countered that the property value is only $13 million.

The dueling values would make a substantial difference when it comes to the hospital’s property tax bill — $388,000 in town and county property taxes annually if the county has its way versus only $103,000 if the hospital has its way.

Duke LifePoint, the hospital network that owns Harris, took its case to the Jackson County Board of Equalization and Review last week. The board heard from both sides, but due to a full docket of property value appeals to be heard that day, they didn’t have time to discuss it and tabled a decision until August. 

The consultant representing Duke LifePoint in the appeal, Will Clark of the Altus Group, argued that outdated infrastructure and lack of routine maintenance detracted from the hospital’s value.

Members of the Equalization and Review Board asked Clark if he had examples of other hospital sales to support the case for a $13 million value. They also asked whether Duke LifePoint had hired an independent appraiser to conduct a certified appraisal of the hospital. 

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According to Jackson Tax Administrator Bobby McMahan, Clark didn’t have that sort of documentation.

Harris was purchased by Duke LifePoint in August 2014.

LifePoint had shelled out $25 million for both Harris and the much smaller Swain Community Hospital, also pledging to make $43 million in capital investments as part of the deal. 

“I wasn’t surprised to get a challenge,” McMahan said at the time the appeal was filed. “But I was a little surprised that their opinion of value was as low as it is, that it was $13 million.” 

Harris was historically a non-profit and exempt from property taxes prior to its purchase by Duke LifePoint, when it became a for-profit entity. While Harris paid taxes for the first time in 2015, it didn’t file an appeal over the value until this year, which happens to coincide with a countywide property revaluation.

The last tax revaluation was completed in 2008. The tax office plans to send 2016 bills out within the month.

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