Athens County Ups Holzer’s Property Tax, Is Unsure If It Will Be Paid

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Holzer Clinic of Athens will get a bigger property tax bill for 2013, but whether it will actually owe it will depend on the state's final ruling on the medical facility's request for tax exemption.

On Wednesday, the Athens County Board of Revision ruled that the tax value on the clinic's property should be increased for tax year 2013.

The decision came after Federal Hocking Local School District filed a complaint with the board challenging the valuation. The district receives revenue from taxes the clinic pays.

In its complaint, the school district based its argument that the tax value should be higher on the fact that the clinic building and property were sold in 2012 to Holzer Health System for $21,041,000. Taxable value is set at 35 percent of fair market value, so the school district asserted that the taxable value should be $7,364,350. The value had been set at $3,719,890, so an increase of more than $3.6 million was sought by Federal Hocking Schools.

Holzer initially filed a counter-complaint in which it asked the Athens County Board of Revision to stay Federal Hocking's complaint about the taxable value until the Ohio Tax Commissioner resolves Holzer's request for tax exemption. However, on May 20 Holzer withdrew its counter-complaint.

The Board of Revision consists of County Treasurer Bill Bias, County Auditor Jill Thompson and County Commission President Lenny Eliason. Wednesday had been set aside as a day for hearings on complaints filed on about a dozen properties, most of them by the property owners.

The decision to increase the tax valuation on the clinic was made by Bias and Chief Deputy Auditor Dave Owen, who filled in for Thompson for part of Wednesday's hearing day. Eliason said he recused himself based on advice from the county prosecutor because Eliason has been trying to set up a meeting between Holzer and school officials to discuss the tax exemption issue.

Owen said the board agreed with the school district's argument that the tax valuation should be based on the market value as indicated by the 2012 sale of the property.

Holzer had withdrawn its counter-claim, and an attorney for the school district was unable to attend Wednesday's hearing. Thompson said the district will be given an opportunity for a hearing Monday if it wishes, but she said that is unlikely since the board has already ruled in the district's favor.

According to the auditor's office, Holzer's second-half real estate tax bill will reflect the increased tax valuation. Bias said those bills will go out at the end of June or in early July.

Meanwhile, the tax-exemption issue is still pending before the state.

Earlier this year, the state ruled that Holzer qualified for an exemption for tax year 2013, but Federal Hocking filed objections. A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Taxation told The Athens Messenger recently that a deadline of June 1 had been set for Holzer and Federal Hocking to present any further evidence or arguments, after which a final decision on the exemption will be made.