Loss of tax-exempt status financial gain for city, others

Warren General Hospital’s board of directors intends to “vigorously” fight the recent decision by the Warren County Board of Assessment Appeals to revoke the hospital’s tax-exempt status requiring the hospital to pay approximately $1.7 million in property taxes annually.

“The Board of Directors of Warren General Hospital is profoundly disappointed in the decision of the Board of Assessment Appeals to revoke the tax exempt status of the Hospital,” Timothy Bevevino, chairman of the board of Warren General Hospital, said in a press release Friday. “The Hospital intends to vigorously fight the Board’s decision, which the Hospital believes will have a devastating impact on its ability to provide charitable care and services to the Warren County community.”

According to Bevevino, all revenues from the hospital are used to further the hospital’s charitable purposes and has been exempt from real estate taxation under Pennsylvania law and continues to be recognized as tax exempt by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.

“In 2011 alone, the Hospital provided over $4.6 million in uncompensated goods and services to the community through its charity care policy and community programs. The Board of Assessment Appeals’ decision will directly affect the Hospital’s ability to continue to provide such extensive charitable care and services to the Warren County community,” he said.

The decision to repeal the hospital’s tax exempt status could also extend beyond Warren in communities such as the Cancer Care Center, the clinics in Sheffield and Tidioute, and the hospital’s regional presence in Kane, Corry and Titusville, the home health care program, orthopedics, maternal and child care, and RehabWorks, Bevevino said.

“The new tax liability will directly reduce the funds available to support charitable care and services. Although it is not yet clear where the money to pay the tax bill would come from, if the Board of Assessment Appeals’ decision is upheld, charitable care and services provided to the community will undoubtedly be impacted,” he said.

Bevevino said the assessment board failed to explain the basis of its decision to repeal the hospital’s tax exempt status.

“The Hospital submitted thirty pages of legal arguments to the Board in support of continuing its tax exempt status. It also submitted extensive documentation outlining the Hospital’s charity care policy and community programs,” he said. “In contrast, the one page decision of the Board of Assessment Appeals addressed none of the Hospital’s arguments, and gave no reason whatsoever for its decision.”

“The actions of the Board of Assessment Appeals have, unfortunately, left the Hospital no other choice but to seek redress in the courts. Accordingly, the Hospital will immediately file and vigorously prosecute an appeal of the Board of Assessment Appeal’s decision with the Court of Common Pleas of Warren County.”

Only one of the seven organizations – Habitat for Humanity – was notified that it would remain tax exempt because it doesn’t own property longer than it takes to build homes for eligible families, who then take on the responsibility of paying the taxes.

On Wednesday, the other six Warren General Hospital, the Rouse, the Warren County YMCA, Warren County Memorial Park, the Crary Home, and Calvary Chapel – learned their appeal hearings were not successful.

Each organization has 30 days to file an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas.