LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Lamar County raised Merit Health Wesley's property taxes, and the hospital appealed the change.
"Merit Health Wesley appealed the county's property assessment to the Board of Supervisors because the value, which doubled from the previous year, raised concerns," said Mike Neuendorf, chief executive officer of Merit Health Wesley. "The estimate was not consistent with the one performed by Property Valuation Services, which has represented our hospital in property tax matters for five years without previous incident."
Jack Smith, Lamar County's tax assessor, said the hospital's tax assessment increased from $15 million to $28 million, but Smith explained the increase is not because the property value increased. He said the amount has been listed incorrectly in the county's computer system for about six years.
"It didn't have an adjusted rate in it or a base rate or a square foot cost in it before," Smith said. "You look at everything once a year to see if they added on or built something new or whatever, but we were just going through everything, checking it. This time, we found it, and then we had to fix it. And the value went up."
The Lamar County Board of Supervisors approved the new property value, and Merit Health Wesley said it will pay it this year.
"While we do not agree with the board's assessment, we are committed to continuing the positive relationship we have had with Lamar County since 1980 and will pay the full amount of property taxes owed," Neuendorf said. "In agreement with the board, a new third party assessment will be completed, which we believe will indicate a more accurate property value of the hospital."
Neuendorf said the hospital will work with the county and a third party company to reassess Merit Health Wesley's property value in the future.
"The statements made by the Property Valuation Services representative do not accurately represent the hospital. We continue to invest in the Merit Health Wesley facility to respond to the needs our patients," Neuendorf said. "We remain committed to serving the Hattiesburg community inside and outside the hospital, and remain one of our county's largest taxpayers."