110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Jan 21, 2013 - 9:28:57am
One of the first challenges for new West Volusia Hospital Authority members may be a fight with the County of Volusia over tax revenues.
The Hospital Authority is poised to refuse to give part of its property-tax income to community-redevelopment funds approved by the County Council.
“That could force them to sue us,” West Volusia Hospital Authority Attorney Theodore Small told board members.
During the year’s first meeting Jan. 17, Hospital Authority board members unanimously agreed they’re up to the fight, if it’s necessary.
Here’s what’s involved:
The County Council is preparing to hear a staff presentation on Community Redevelopment Areas (CRAs) during the Thursday, Jan. 24, County Council meeting. The council also intends to meet with city officials about CRAs on Thursday, Jan. 31, since cities are often the ones that create CRAs.
CRAs created in West Volusia could mean a loss of tax revenues for the West Volusia Hospital Authority and other tax-collecting agencies.
When a CRA is created, a portion of the property taxes in the CRA district is siphoned off for special projects in that district.
County government loses money, and so do special taxing districts such as the Hospital Authority, which pays for indigent care. The Hospital Authority is facing mounting health-care costs, particularly for specialty care.
The need for — and expense of — treatments for cancer and heart ailments, for example, have increased dramatically, while the property-tax base to fuel Hospital Authority revenues has shrunk since the real-estate bubble burst.
Attorney Small told Hospital Authority members that the agency already loses a bit of money to CRAs like the one in DeLand’s Spring Hill neighborhood.
The Hospital Authority can claim exemption to CRAs, Small said, as a special taxing district authorized to levy taxes only for indigent care. Using the money for other uses, such as redevelopment, is prohibited, Small said.
The St. Johns River Water Management District argued a similar point with Gainesville during the 1980s, and the court upheld the Water Management District’s challenge.
Meanwhile, Small said, he’s had two phone conversations with County Attorney Dan Eckert, who said the county will not give the Hospital Authority an automatic exemption from paying into CRAs.
Eckert told The Beacon there is no automatic exemption. The County Council can decide to grant an exemption, or not, or leave it up to the city that created the CRA.
The City of New Smyrna Beach exempted the Southeast Volusia Hospital Authority from payment into its CRAs.
“Currently, multi-county districts like the Water Management Districts are exempt,” Eckert added.
“Staff will make a presentation, so that everybody has the same factual background with regard to the CRAs. The public participation would be the following week at the workshop,” Eckert said.
The County Council normally takes public comments during its meetings. West Volusia Hospital Authority members and its attorney were planning to attend — and comment — during the meeting. There have been varying legal opinions about disallowing public comment during such meetings.
The regular County Council meeting Jan. 24 begins at 9 a.m. in the Frank T. Bruno Jr. chambers at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center, 123 W. Indiana Ave. in DeLand.
The CRA workshop with cities will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, at the same location.
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