Whether or not Jersey Shore University Medical Center will have to pay more local property taxes to Neptune is a question still up in the air but one that will probably be answered in the near future.
“Things are still up in the air but we don’t have the luxury to wait,” Tax Assessor Bernie Haney said earlier this week.
Gov. Christ Christie recently vetoed a bill that would have kept hospitals tax exempt. The Governor’s veto means hospitals, which have had long-standing tax exemptions, may now have to cough up more property taxes.
Hospitals have typically been tax exempt since the early 20th century because they used to provide medical services for free to the poor but the same is not true today.
“We are in the beginning process of investigating this,” Haney said.
He said that Jersey Shore already pays taxes on its gift shop and cafeteria.
“Where it becomes a problem, both within and outside the hospital, is that there are a significant amount of doctor-related services that may, or may not, be considered tax exempt. We have not even begun to delve into it but it certainly exists,” he said.
Morristown recently took Morristown Hospital to court charging the hospital was being run too much like a private corporation and was thus, taxable. The court ruled that portions of the hospital are taxable and a settlement was negotiated.
And the Governor’s veto let’s this ruling stand.
“So we have the Morristown decision and some of it already applies to Jersey Shore but it is not a simple task to value real estate within the hospital. It requires a breakdown of buildings based on what they are doing and how are they doing it. In order to get anywhere, the amount of paperwork is going to be huge,” Haney said.
He said that the township has not yet sat down with Jersey Shore officials but it is expected this will happen in the near future. Haney said township officials have a good relationship with Jersey Shore’s administration and he doesn’t foresee any problems in negotiations. The Jersey Shore University Medical Center is part of the Meridian Health Care system.
“We have already started internally to gather our team and decide how to move forward. We have to move forward, we don’t have the luxury to wait and I will be updating the governing body on our preliminary plans in the near future. But things are still up in the air,” he said.
“We want to move as quickly possible. There are going to be a lot of man hours in getting a game plan together and then more trying to decipher operations within the hospital,” he said.
Haney said things should be moving forward by this summer and any added assessment ready by October. He said he has no idea at this time about what ratables may be added to the township’s tax rolls from the hospital
“We have to wrap our heads around this but the straight valuation of the entire hospital is huge. We will see, it’s all so new,” he said.
He also said he doesn’t know if the state Legislature will also take further action on the issue in the future.