Attorneys for a Harrison County Hospital spoke before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Tuesday, arguing that the hospital was exempt from paying $1 million in property taxes to the county for the 2011 tax year.
United Hospital Center appealed Circuit Judge Lewis Marks Jr.'s ruling in Jan. 2013. The hospital argued that it was exempt from paying taxes because it was levied when the current facility was under construction and not operating. Attorneys for the hospital argued Tuesday that the hospital was 50 percent complete at the time and that employees were working there. Judge Marks' 2013 ruling said property owned by a charity that isn't used "primarily and immediately" for its charity purpose isn't exempt from taxes.
Harrison County Prosecutor Jamie Armstrong said the assessor's office is seeking interest costs, in addition to the $1 million originally owed to the county. Armstrong argued that medical care wasn't actually being provided at the new hospital, it wasn't fulfilling its charitable purpose and should not be subject to tax-exempt status. Armstrong told the court that Assessor Cheryl Romano's office had received tax dollars for the property up until the 2011 tax year.
Kathy Schultz, representing the W.Va. Tax Commissioner and Assessor, told the court that the new facility didn't have a license or a certificate of occupancy at the time in question. Schultz also told the court that the former UHC location received tax exemption status for the entire year, even though it closed in October. Schultz argued that Harrison County uses tax property money to help fund police and fire service and that other taxpayers will shoulder the burden of those costs when the anticipated tax dollars aren't received.
The Supreme Court of Appeals will review the case and issue a ruling at a later date.