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Time for Valley Hospital of Ridgewood to Pay Property Taxes Like Everyone else


July 3,2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, according to state Superior Court Judge Lisa Perez Friscia Ridgewood now has 90 days to clear way for Valley Hospital expansion . The local reactions were swift.

CRR ‘s Pete Mckenna  said , “I think this decision should have a chilling impact on municipalities across the state.  If this decision is upheld it would indicate that localities have no say in controlling land-use within their borders if a hospital is involved.”

Ridgewood Attorney John Hersperger said ,” What was perhaps most disappointing was Judge’s remark (paraphrased) from the bench, in which she described that last decade of Valley’s applications as a “saga” for Valley, but just “history” for Ridgewood.  Clearly, the judge saw the Village as the bad guys in this case .  Honestly, after 60 or so public hearings and all the time and stress that residents endured, it was most painful to hear that kind of comment from a presiding Judge of this County.”

Councilmen Jeff Voigt said at the Village REORG, “Valley Hospital needs to be a better neighbor and come up with solutions that actually make sense for our neighbors in the surrounding Valley area.”

Which brings us once again back to the question of Valley Hospital being assessed property taxes.

In June of 2015 a tax court judge ruled that Morristown Medical Center should pay property taxes on virtually all of its 40-acre property in town.Tax Court Judge Vito Bianco ruled that the hospital failed to meet the legal test that it operated as a non-profit, charitable organization for the tax years 2006 through 2008. Only the auditorium, fitness center and the visitors’ garage should not be assessed for property taxes, he said.

The ruling noted that President and CEO Joseph Trunfio, who recently retired, made more than $5 million in 2005 and other executives made well more than $500,000 a year during the period under review.

Bianco ruled that the hospital failed to establish the “reasonableness” of the salaries it paid to executives. By comparing hospital executive salaries only to those of its peer group hospitals creates a “wholly self-serving” justification for its executive salaries.

Bianco went on , “Non-profit hospitals have changed significantly, however, from their early origins as charitable alms houses providing free basic medical treatment to the infirm poor,” he wrote. “Today they are sophisticated centers of medical care, and in some cases, education, providing a litany of medical services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.”

Furthermore Bianco’s ruling said,” the medical center failed in its legal burden to show where its non-profit activity ends and where it for-profit activity with physician groups begins.

“The hospital had intermingled interests with other for-profit operations as well, he said, saying it failed to draw a clear line between those operations.”

Clearly Valley Hospital would meet all the court litmus tests to be required to pay property taxes in Ridgewood.

Superior Court Judge Lisa Perez Friscia, told the Bergen Record , “the council ordinance must be consistent with April Planning Board approvals allowing the hospital to nearly double in size, from 565,000 square feet to 961,000.

If the judges ruling holds the hospital should be paying taxes on the new assessed value of the hospital after construction .