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Bayfront Health St. Petersburg sues property appraiser for ‘unlawful’ tax bill

Lawsuit comes as local officials question hospital’s commitment to the community.

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.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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