Fort Mill school board opposes tax breaks for planned hospital

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comMay 22, 2014 

— If Piedmont Medical Center builds a hospital in Fort Mill, school leaders want the company to pony up its share of taxes – the same as any other for-profit business operating in the district.

On May 20, the Fort Mill school board discussed a resolution to York County Council asking that Piedmont not receive any fee-in-lieu tax agreement. Large companies sometimes negotiate a fee to be paid instead of contributing at the set commercial tax rate.

The school board will vote May 29 on whether or not to approve the resolution, asking county leaders to “oppose any attempt” toward such an agreement with Piedmont.

A March 31 court decision gave Piedmont the right to build a hospital in Fort Mill following years of legal decisions and appeals. The next day, Piedmont sent a letter to the district claiming the move would generate $4.3 million in annual taxes, including $2.8 million per year for schools. Fort Mill school officials want to know if that’s really the intent.

Board members say they heard or saw the same figures in advertisements, letters, at Rotary and at other club meetings.

“They have billboards on I-77 saying it,” said board member Scott Patterson.

Board Chairman Patrick White reached out to the company to ask if PMC leaders would commit to the full advertised amount for schools. Back-and-forth emails with Piedmont leadership haven’t yet led to a firm answer, White said.

“I sent what I thought was a simple question,” White said of his contact with Piedmont. “I didn’t think we got the answer we were looking for.”

Board member Wayne Bouldin took the correspondence to mean they couldn’t or wouldn’t commit.

“I think they did answer the question,” he said.

Further muddling the issue is a court decision that could again change who gets to build the hospital, and when. The Herald reported last week that S.C. Administrative Law Court Judge Phillip Lenski vacated his order allowing Piedmont to build the hospital after Carolinas HealthCare asked him to reconsider his March 31 decision.

“Piedmont Medical Center remains committed to being a good community partner and serving the health care needs of the Fort Mill community. However, we respect the judicial process and have put our development plans on hold until the court issues a final ruling,” said Amy Faulkenberry, a PMC spokesperson.

“We remain hopeful that the decision issued on March 31, which granted the certificate of need to Piedmont Medical Center, will be upheld.”

The school district hasn’t taken a stance on which hospital system should build in Fort Mill. Board members did say at this week’s meeting that if a hospital is going to “actively and publicly” promote a contribution to local schools, then that money needs to arrive as promised.

“Regardless of the response or lack of response, it’s our responsibility as trustees to be proactive,” Bouldin said.

John Marks •  803-831-8166

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