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Board of assessment denies UPMC tax exemption

LOCK HAVEN — The Clinton County Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes has denied UPMC Susquehanna’s request for tax exemption status in the county.

The decision was made last Wednesday by the board, consisting of the county commissioners, after UPMC was given the opportunity to present information that they felt qualified them for exemption status.

UPMC, which purchased the Lock Haven Hospital in 2017 from Quorum Health, filed for tax exemption status this year citing the health care system’s non-profit status.

To be considered a non-profit, UPMC has to meet five points of tax exemption law through a test articulated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case of “Hospital Utilization Project V. Commonwealth.”

“Based on the evidence, the board of assessment appeals … weren’t convinced, if you will, with the evidence that we heard in the hearing that we should grant the exoneration,” Commissioner Robert “Pete” Smeltz said.

The impact the exemption would have on local taxing bodies played a role in the commissioners decision, Smeltz said.

Over $300,000 worth of tax revenue is at stake including $72,421.80 from the county; $72,523.91 from the city of Lock Haven; and $163,190.46 from the Keystone Central School District.

UPMC Lock Haven makes up three percent of the city’s total budget and is the largest taxable body of real estate in the city limits, with Fairview Inn and Suites being the second largest, Lock Haven City Manager Gregory Wilson said.

“They (UPMC) made a strong case but it’s a huge decision and it impacts the City of Lock Haven and it impacts the (Keystone Central) school district in a large way and based on the evidence we did not feel convinced that we should grant that exemption,” Smeltz said.

UPMC will have the chance to appeal the decision in the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas within 30 days.

If UPMC moves forward and files for an appeal, the meetings the board of assessment held will not be used in the case, Smeltz said.

“They don’t consider anything that occurred in our assessment appeal hearing in the court hearing. They start from scratch,” he explained. “Each presents their sides, just like they did in our hearing and then the judge will decide. So he’ll weigh their evidence against the law.”

The county’s solicitor, Larry E. Coploff of Coploff, Ryan and Houser, will present the county’s findings and UPMC Susquehanna’s attorney would have the same opportunity, he said.

“Our solicitor would be in a situation where he would represent the county and try to convince the courts that our decision to deny the exemption is valid,” he continued. “Then their attorney would come in and try to convince the judge that their position… that they should be exempt.”

Representatives from UPMC Susquehanna declined to comment when asked if they will file an appeal.

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