Wernick: Merger will not impact tax digest

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY, Ga. -- A staggering $195 million buyout of Palmyra Medical Center by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital on behalf of the Dougherty County Hospital Authority Tuesday morning will have no impact on the county's tax digest, Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick pledged Tuesday.

According to Dougherty County Tax Director Denver Collins-Hooten, Palmyra Medical Center -- a private, for-profit hospital -- paid estimated yearly property taxes around $570,000.

When asked about the impact on Dougherty County's already shrinking tax digest, Wernick told The Albany Herald that a payment in lieu of taxes will be made annually, but the exact details of the amount of the payment had not been finalized.

"The amount we're paying is going to be equal to what is currently being paid in taxes as a base," Wernick said.

As word of the buyout spread Tuesday morning, the effect on the tax digest was one of the first concerns voiced by members of the public, who responded to media queries and on local media websites.

"There goes hundreds of thousands in tax revenue for the city/county budget and the creation of a total monopoly in health care services for Southwest Georgia. Hopefully nobody at Palmyra will lose their jobs (especially in this job market), but only time will tell," one person identified as "engineer" posted at albanyherald.com.

Palmyra was the fourth-largest property taxpayer within the Albany city limits in 2009, according to the hospital's Comprehensive Audit and Financial Report, behind only MillerCoors, Bellsouth and M&M Mars. That figure amounts to roughly .93 percent of the city's annual budget, or $131,350.