|The ladder leads to the roof, City Hall employees said.|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
Hackensack University Medical Center and other non-profit hospitals in North Jersey are scrambling to avoid a court ruling that would strip them of their tax-exempt status.
And figures released today by Hackensack Tax Assessor Art Carlson show why:
As a non-profit, HUMC owns $257 million in property that is totally tax exempt, including the main hospital and parking garage; and cancer and research centers.
That is far higher than previously thought, and nearly twice the figure published in The Record in a Page 1 story last Nov. 24.
If the city sues HUMC and wins, the hospital could face a property tax bill of more than $10 million, Carlson said.
That would be on top of the $4,877,000 HUMC already pays the city on an additional $139 million in property that is taxable.
The enormous tax exemption has shifted the burden onto long-suffering homeowners and commercial property tax payers, who face higher bills every year with no end in sight.
Another non-profit, Morristown Medical Center, was sued by Morristown, resulting in a landmark Tax Court decision against the hospital.
Judge Vito Bianco ruled that non-profit hospitals in the early 21st century are essentially "legal fictions," The Record reported on Nov. 24.
The hospital settled, agreeing to pay Morristown $15.5 million over three years.
To avoid the same fate, HUMC and other non-profits in Ridgewood, Teaneck, Englewood, Wayne and Paterson have been backing a bill in the state Legislature that would require them to pay a "community service contribution," Staff Writer Lindy Washburn reported on Monday.
Of course, the "contribution" is just that, far smaller than their tax exemption under an antiquated 1913 law.
Under the proposed state law, HUMC would pay the city $690,762 a year -- essentially chump change.
Bergen County readers got a good screwing from local Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza.
Today's Local section is dominated by Passaic County news (L-1, L-2, L-3 and L-6).
Even the local obituary is about a man from Clifton (L-6).
The closest Sykes and Sforza got to Hackensack news was a story from neighboring Maywood (L-6).