Northern Light Health Files Complaint for Declaratory Judgment Against City of Brewer
— Earlier today, Northern Light Health filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in Superior Court against the City of Brewer. The complaint involves the tax-exempt status of portions of the Northern Light Health facilities at Whiting Hill in Brewer, including the Lafayette Family Cancer Institute. This action was necessitated by the City Assessor’s ruling that certain areas in the building are no longer eligible for property tax exemption because the spaces are occupied by employees of third-party service providers, such as that occupied by private practice oncologists and Quest Diagnostics lab personnel rendering services exclusively to Northern Light Health cancer patients. Both of these groups are under service contracts. The Assessor is also challenging the tax-exempt nature of the Cianchette Building due to the presence of a small group of Optum employees, who are working exclusively in support of the Northern Light Health charitable and benevolent mission.
In Maine and across the nation, health systems and hospitals are still trying to recover from the adverse financial effects and staffing challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Non-profit hospitals, educational institutions, and other non-profit organizations regularly rely on for-profit service providers to help them access the resources necessary to fulfill their charitable mission cost-effectively.
“The Assessor’s determination that the presence of third-party employees in our facilities, such as private practice physicians and those providing contracted lab services, render those facilities ineligible for property tax exemption, is contrary to public policy and well-established legal precedent in Maine, will add to the cost of healthcare, and will be viewed with concern by the entire Maine charitable non-profit community,” said Northern Light Health senior vice president Suzanne Spruce.
The Northern Light Health home office, the Cianchette Building, and the Lafayette Family Cancer Institute are located on Whiting Hill in the City of Brewer. “We are good neighbors, have invested in the community, and employ hundreds of people at our Brewer Professional Center, all of whom work exclusively in support of direct patient care and our charitable non-profit mission,” Spruce said.
“After substantive discussions with the Brewer Assessor did not lead to a resolution of this matter, we were left with no choice but to resolve this through the court system,” Spruce added.