MetroSouth tax break push shelvedOfficials studying other options
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
by Maura Possley
A push before the Cook County Board to reduce the
property tax burden for a for-profit Blue Island hospital has been
An ordinance to change MetroSouth Medical Center's designation with
the Cook County assessor to lower the hospital's tax bill by as much as
$1 million was delayed by its sponsor, Commissioner Joan Murphy
The matter had been slated to be discussed by the county board's
finance committee today until Murphy withdrew it from consideration,
saying additional time would allow her to bring a proposal with full
support behind it.
The hospital is facing its first property tax bill - at
approximately $2 million - since taking over and renaming the
not-for-profit St. Francis Hospital, which nearly closed in summer
2008. The hospital previously had been exempt from paying property
Murphy declined to detail what opposition caused the delay but said
the specific ordinance could be abandoned for other ideas being
discussed by officials.
"We want to make sure once this happens, it happens," she said.
"We're trying to find the best way to do it that will help everybody.
The best way to do this is what we're kind of stuck on now."
Critics have charged the ordinance singled out one institution for
preferential tax treatment. They say it could result in other hospitals
coming to the county and asking for similar tax breaks.
Murphy disagreed, saying details in the ordinance prevented such an
outcome. Stipulations state only hospitals that turned from
not-for-profit to for-profit status and are in an area of where 10
percent or more of the population lives below the poverty level could
"How many people are going to buy a hospital in this economy?" the
commissioner said. "Maybe it would be a big stampede but I just don't
Murphy said that while the ordinance would lower the hospital's
annual tax payment, that still added up to newfound money for the
county and city of Blue Island. Also, the hospital's growing number of
primary care clinics would be taxed separately, she said.
Blue Island Mayor Don Peloquin said legal questions and a reluctance
from the county assessor's office to oversee the change played a part
in the delay.
Peloquin planned to work with his staff to create other
alternatives, in part based on ideas from the assessor's office and
Cook County Commissioner John Daley (D-Chicago), who chairs the board's
"Now we have to go back to the table and look at it again," Peloquin said. "There's ways of getting it done."