Merit Health Natchez sues county over property taxes

Published 12:24 am Sunday, August 13, 2017


NATCHEZ — Merit Health Natchez filed a lawsuit last week against Adams County over the hospital’s property taxes.

The lawsuit concerns assessed value of the former Regional Medical Center, now Merit Health Natchez. Merit Health also filed an objection with the Adams County Board of Supervisors about the value of equipment left inside the former Natchez Community Hospital building that the company also owns.

Email newsletter signup

Merit Health’s parent company purchased the former Natchez Regional Medical Center in 2014 for $18 million while the hospital was in bankruptcy. The county previously owned it. Part of the purchase price included the prepayment of $8 million in property tax.

Merit Health Natchez CEO Eric Robinson said the first dispute is over how that $8 million would be spread over a number of years, based on assessed value.

“We need to have some agreement on what the assessed value is going forward,” he said.

Michael Pace of the Adams County Tax Assessor’s Office said the true value of the land and building is $23 million. Pace said he would not consider reassessing the hospital except by board or court order.

Merit Health is hoping to have the hospital’s true value adjusted to approximately $14 million, said Board Attorney Scott Slover.

Board President Mike Lazarus said obviously if the hospital is valued at $23 million as opposed to $14 million, the $8 million in pre-paid tax credits would be paid off faster. At a $14 million valuation, the tax credits would last longer before Merit Health is placed on the tax rolls.

Merit Health’s property valuation consultant Jenna Reyes said poor bookkeeping when equipment was removed from the former Natchez Community Hospital has caused $4 million worth of equipment to still be listed on the tax rolls. However, Reyes said no valuable equipment is left at Community.

Robinson has said any usable equipment from Natchez Community Hospital was moved to Merit Health Natchez or a sister hospital in the region, where it could be utilized.

Reyes suggested a compromise salvage value of $200,000 for the “leftover trash sitting at the Community Campus.”

“We should have had a clear record of what was removed from Community to Merit, but that never happened,” she said.

Supervisor David Carter said he agreed it is unlikely that $4 million in good equipment was sitting in an abandoned hospital. Carter said he would like the county to be a good corporate partner, but the county would have to operate on what the company could show the county via its books.

The board suggested the hospital bring the tax assessor’s office through the former Natchez Community building to help clean up the books.

Merit Health also wants the county to value the former Natchez Community Hospital Building at an approximately $600,000 value, said Slover. Both matters were filed in Adams County Chancery Court.