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June 13, 2014

Conemaugh Health System's $500K payment to region OK’d

EBENSBURG — The Cambria County commissioners Thursday approved an agreement between the county and Conemaugh Health System for a 2014 payment in lieu of real estate taxes.

The agreement calls for a $500,000 payment by Conemaugh to the county, Johnstown and Greater Johnstown School District, a figure unchanged from the 2013 deal.

It will, however, extend for four years beyond 2014 should the deal between the medical conglomerate and Duke LifePoint not materialize or the new owners are a not for profit agency, said county Solicitor Thomas Leiden.

The deal will be void if the buyout is finalized and the properties transferred onto the tax rolls, Leiden said.

An increase of 3 percent per year will be paid should the agreement continue, he said.

For 2014, Cambria’s share will be about $100,000 while the city and district will each receive $200,000, officials said Thursday.

Johnstown City Council on Wednesday approved the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), and the school board is expected to take similar action later this month, Leiden said.

City Solicitor Dave Andrews assured council that conditions were requested by all of the solicitors that the entities will be protected should the taxing status of the hospital and its holdings change.

“In the event that the successor to the Conemaugh Health System is no longer a 501(c)(3), we would have the right to challenge the continuation of the payment in lieu of taxes,” Andrews told council.

The hospital, with well over 100 properties under its ownership, has for several years been paying to the three taxing entities a percentage of what it would pay should all of the deeds be taxable.

An application seeking approval of the Conemaugh-Duke deal has already been made to the Office of the State Attorney General, Leiden said.

A hearing at the county level in response to a petition for “Approval of Transaction” is set for July 2 in the courtroom of President Judge Timothy Creany.

Should the new owners proceed as a for-profit, with all of the current properties on the tax rolls the annual tax bill to the county, city and district is estimated at $5 million, Leiden said.

The county likely would be able to claim a little higher percentage than the current breakdown, President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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