Bayfront Health St. Petersburg is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s office over a tax bill it claims is too high.
Its lawsuit comes as local officials question the hospital’s commitment to the community including its service to low-income patients.
The for-profit hospital, which is part of the massive Community Health Systems chain, paid its $1.3 million tax bill last year, but wants the courts to force the county to reevaluate the property’s taxable worth.
The property appraiser’s lowered its tax assessment from $65 million to $60 million after Bayfront protested its valuation with the agency’s Value Adjustment Board.
The hospital’s lawsuit shows that reduction was not enough for leaders at the downtown facility. The lawsuit calls the department’s valuation “unlawful and invalid” and states the amount exceeds the property’s true market value.
Bayfront filed a similar lawsuit the previous year over its $65.7 million valuation and $1.45 million tax bill. The Valuation Board lowered its 2017 valuation to $62.3 million, but the hospital still sued. A judge ruled in that case in favor of the Property Appraiser.
St. Petersburg City Council members grilled the hospital’s Interim CEO Joe Mullany in March about the hospital’s performance after a series of reports signaled possible trouble.
Earlier this month the University of South Florida announced it was cutting ties with Bayfront after a three year trial partnership with the hospital. There were also reports of more than 400 layoffs at the hospital.
Council members questioned whether the hospital was a good long term partner. Community Health Systems has been in financial despair in recent years and has closed several of its under-performing hospitals including Bayfront Health Dade City, which it sold.
Still, the hospital provides significant indigent care. Bayfront reportedly provided more than $73 million worth of services to patients unable to pay in 2017, according to the Tampa Bay Times. By comparison, nearby St. Anthony’s Hospital provided just $20 million worth of indigent care the same year.
Mullany is expected to update City Council on its performance at a meeting in June.