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North Sunflower Medical Center gains tax exemption for Greenwood clinic; first look at the new Hospital RFP

Tuesday, August 15, 2023, 6:31 pm News Flash Archive

Several matters related to the financial distress of the Greenwood Leflore Hospital came up during yesterday's meeting of the Leflore County Board of Supervisors.

The board meeting may be viewed here: Board of Supervisors Meeting, August 14, 2023

Seventy-five minutes of the meeting dealt with the county budget shortfall of just over $2 million for the first ten months of the 2022-2023 fiscal year. The shortfall is due to projected revenue not meeting expectations, coupled with too much spending, even unbudgeted spending that has taken place. The main departments outside their budgets include the general fund, the road department, and the county jail.

County officials now admit what they tried to deny earlier: a tax levy will be required to pay the $10 million loan taken out to prop up GLH. The board isn't yet sure how many mills tax increase it will take to make the loan payments, because nobody knows how much of the $10 million will be drawn down by GLH. So far, GLH has received $3.2 million of the $10 million loan amount. The hospital is expected to require another cash infusion later this month.

The county is expecting several mills in increased taxation in order to balance next year's budget. The budget discussion portion of the meeting starts at timestamp 1 hour 50 minutes in the above linked video.

The board heard a presentation from its hospital consultant Mr. Samuel Odle on a Zoom call. Mr. Odle stated that nobody knows for sure when CMS will act on the hospital's critical access designation application. He stated it usually takes between six and nine months.

Odle also presented ten items he thinks the community should pursue to shore up the hospital's financial position, including better outreach to the community by public leaders, civic groups, and the hospital administration. Odle also suggested expanding the hospital board membership from its current five members to as many as thirteen, to provide a broader base of community input into its governance. He also urged greater transparency in the operation of the hospital.

Odle, who is being paid $12,000 per month by the county, told the board how his people are reaching out to CMS twice a week in an effort to prod CMS into quicker action. He stated that Congressman Bennie Thompson and his staff are in regular communication with CMS regarding the critical access designation.

Supervisor Robert Collins expressed his concern that, if the critical access application is denied, there is no alternative plan but to close the hospital down completely.

The hospital discussion begins at timestamp 1 hour 22 minutes.

Also at the meeting, there was further fallout from the sale of a commercial building on West Park Avenue to North Sunflower Medical Center (NSMC), which is the Ruleville hospital that bought the building from local attorney Lee Abraham, Jr. The building houses Honest Abe's donut shop, and until June 2023, was used for a satellite learning center by Mississippi Delta Community College.

Some members of the public and governing bodies took umbrage that Ruleville had purchased the building last March, and was rolling out plans to use it for a satellite clinic, a DME operation, and a pharmacy.

Troy Brown, along with his daughter, made several presentations to city and county officials, asking that they "put it in writing" that they would use the full extent of the law to stop North Sunflower Medical Center from competing against Greenwood Leflore Hospital. No action was ever taken on their requests. To see the Browns' presentation, view here: Greenwood City Council Meeting, May 2, 2023

But at yesterday's supervisor meeting, Tax Assessor Leroy Ware presented the board with Ruleville's request for full tax exemption for the property that it just bought and is now remodeling into clinic space. Mr. Ware's presentation begins at timestamp 11 minutes.

It turns out that North Sunflower Medical Center (NSMC) is a political subdivision of the state of Mississippi, being owned by Sunflower County. It is a community hospital that is completely exempt from all property taxes (including the school district portion), just like Greenwood Leflore Hospital.

Further details about the transaction were revealed in Ruleville's request for the exemption, which the board of supervisors had no choice but to grant. For one thing, when Leflore County questioned the ownership, both the Sunflower County attorney and chancery clerk provided Mr. Ware with documentation, attorney general opinions, and court cases proving that the Greenwood property for the Ruleville clinic is owned by the Ruleville hospital, which is owned by Sunflower County.

To top it all off, North Sunflower Medical Center does not have to pay any pending taxes owed for 2023, since according to state law, the moment it bought the property from Mr. Abraham, the tax and any tax liens were "extinguished."

The HUD-1 settlement form, which Sunflower County produced as part of its exemption request, showed that Mr. Abraham had to pay the pro-rata share of 3 months' property tax (January through March), which was $3,420. The property was valued at $530,495 on the tax rolls.

That means that going forward, Leflore County and the City of Greenwood will lose $13,680 in taxes every year, since North Sunflower Medical Center is exempt from paying property taxes.

The purchase price for the building was listed as $823,000, paid by North Sunflower Medical Center to The Mercantile, Inc., Mr. Abraham's company.

But according to the HUD-1 settlement form, Mr. Abraham had the property mortgaged to Southern Bancorp Bank for $839,609.10. Thus, the entire purchase price paid by NSMC went to pay off the mortgage on the property, with Mr. Abraham contributing an additional $20,000 at the closing.

To see NSMC's tax exemption request, including letters, the tax property card, the Warranty Deed of Sale, Attorney General's opinion, and the HUD-1 settlement form, view here: North Sunflower Medical Center Request for Property Tax Exemption

Additionally, the Board of Supervisors approved the final version of the Request for Proposals for the lease or sale of the Greenwood Leflore Hospital.

The Board has run hot and cold about whether to re-advertise an RFP, with almost seven months elapsing since the idea was first brought up.

The new RFP may be seen here: Second RFP for Lease or Sale of Greenwood Leflore Hospital


To review our reporting on GLH and its financial woes, please see here: Index of Greenwood Leflore Hospital news articles

John Pittman Hey
The Taxpayers Channel

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