Fulton Center gets reduced assessment

Fulton County Treasurer Terry Blodgett details a court-ordered property tax refund for the former county nursing home property to the Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee Thursday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Mchael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare had a civil court reduce its property assessment by $1.1 million in a legal matter challenged by county government and the town of Johnstown.

The county once owned the former nursing home property for several decades, before selling it on March 31, 2012 for $3.5 million to private Bronx-based Centers for Specialty Care, which runs Fulton Center.

Fulton County Treasurer Terry Blodgett told the Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee Thursday that county property tax refunds to Fulton Center were ordered by the court totalling $66,408 for a five-year period from 2014-2018.

“The judge and our attorney and the town’s attorney came to an agreement,” Blodgett said.

Fulton Land Associates LLC, on behalf of the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, in 2014 sued to get the assessment at the nursing home property at 847 County Highway 122 in the town of Johnstown lowered from $3.5 million to $1 million. Fulton County Court Judge Polly A. Hoye ultimately lowered the property assessment by $1.1 million to $2.4 million.

The Finance Committee on Thursday approved a proposed resolution to confirm the court-ordered refund. The full board will act March 12 on the resolution.

Blodgett said Hoye combined several filed petitions and approved five years of refunds – from 2014 to 2018. County Attorney Jason Brott was involved in negotiations to resolve the court action. The Johnstown town attorney is Leah Everhart.

The 176-bed facility was once known as the Fulton County Infirmary, and later the Fulton County Residential Healthcare Facility.

The settlement releases the town of Johnstown of any obligation to pay any refunds regarding the agreement.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors in September 2013 established a policy for participating in the legal defense of real property tax assessments. County officials noted at the time that lower governments sometimes don’t have the financial resources to mount such challenges on their own. Under the new policy, the county considers participation in the defense of challenges to lower governments’ assessments under certain conditions.

“This is one of the 10 or so we are willing to defend if they met our policy,” said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead.

Stead asked Blodgett is he was “comfortable” so far with the county legally helping lower municipalities in the assessment challenges.

Blodgett responded by noting some of the town attorneys “believe we shouldn’t be involved.”

“Our’s doesn’t feel that way,” said Johnstown Town Supervisor Jack Wilson.

Stead said he wasn’t privy to this negotiation involving the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare. But he said such cases can vary on the final lowered amount.

“If the assessor doesn’t have a tremendous amount of documentation about how you arrived at the [assessment] number, then you have to settle in the middle,” Stead said.

By Kerry Minor

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