Champaign Cty Board Of Review Reaffirms Decision On Hospital Properties
Champaign County’s Board of Review is leaving properties owned by Urbana’s two hospitals on the property tax rolls, for the moment. But in a public hearing Tuesday, an attorney representing the hospitals suggested the panel wait and let the legal process play out.
The board reaffirmed its position over the objections of Chicago Attorney Steven Pflaum, who represents both the Carle health system and Presence Covenant Medical Center.
He contends only Illinois’ Department of Revenue has the legal authority to put those hospitals back on the tax rolls. The review board's decision was made after the 4th District Appellate Court threw out a state law that determined the tax-exempt status of non-profit hospitals.
The Department of Revenue has filed a request to delay the effect of that ruling, pending further review by Illinois’ Supreme Court. If that happens, Pflaum hopes the board of review would change its mind.
"That would eliminate this issue pending the supreme court decision, which we can expect sometime next year," he said. "That decision and that result, we think obviously makes a lot of sense – not just for the two hospitals, but also for the citizens of our county.”
Pflaum says if nothing changes, Carle would owe about $9-million in property taxes, while Presence would expect to pay around $1-million. But he suggests the board wait for a legal resolution, should taxing bodies be forced with returning those funds.
“There’s no indication from the board of review that they’ve considered this, or that they are aware of the consequences of that $10-million hit, or their share of it, on the taxing districts in our county," Pflaum said. "That’s unfortunate, and frankly, it’s a little bit scary.”
Champaign County Interim Supervisor of Assessments Mark Whitsitt admits the county is in 'unchartered waters' - that no Illinois board of review has seen before.
“And these decisions that we’re trying to make right now are decisions that keep us up at night, that effect our health, we think about them constantly," he said. "People in the county and on the board have cancelled vacations to come back and be here for work for these types of proceedings."
But Whitsitt also says he has an obligation to uphold the law, and do what’s in the best interest of Champaign County residents.
The Board of Review did say it would reconsider its decision on the hospital properties if a stay were granted.