Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

City must pay back hospital, court rules

- By Lisa J. Huriash Staff writer

CORAL SPRINGS — The city could soon be on the hook to pay back nearly $430,000 in taxes it improperly collected over the last five years from the agency which runs the hospital formerly known as Coral Springs Medical Center.

Last week the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach upheld a lower court’s ruling that the city’s fire assessment fee on the hospital is a tax, and government­s are not allowed to tax other government­s. The hospital is run by the North Broward Hospital District, itself a taxing agency.

“Taxpayers are the ones who fund this hospital district and their money should go toward the operation of the hospital district and not fund a component of the city’s government,” said John Herin, the Fort Lauderdale attorney who represente­d the hospital district.

It is not the hospital’s job “to fund the fire department in Coral Springs,” he said.

The city has argued there was no tax, rather the city was levying a special assessment which can be passed on to taxpayers.

Coral Springs began charging the hospital district the fire assessment fee in 2010 to pay for fire service and contribute toward the cost of equipment and new fire engines.

Coral Springs officials said the assessment is fair “because they use our fire services,” said city attorney John “J.J.” Hearn. “If they don’t [pay], the city pays for their fire service.”

Wednesday night, the Coral Springs City Commission agreed to ask the court for a re-hearing, although the city attorney warned them the decision might not be reversed.

Thursday, Commission­er Dan Daley criticized the hospital district for spending money on such things as signing a three-year endorsemen­t with Miami Dolphins quarterbac­k Ryan Tannehill to represent Broward Health’s orthopedic­s and sports medicine program.

Tannehill was paid $100,000 in 2013, $110,000 in 2014 and $121,000 this year to be their spokesman.

“You are willing to pay somebody to be on your billboard but you aren’t willing to pay for services you take part in, in a city?” Daley said.

And the hospital is “one of our largest users in the city,” said City Manager Erdal Donmez.

Herin, the hospital’s attorney, said he hopes the city will make quick “arrangemen­ts to refund the money.”

The bill is at $428,750.95, about $19,000 of which is interest. or 954-572-2008

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