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Medical center asks for tax exemption

Southern Dominion Health System (SDHS), Inc.’s formerly Lunenburg County Community Health Center, is seeking tax exemption from the county following an inquiry from the commissioner of revenue.

SDHS offers programs to the uninsured or underinsured, including primary care, dental and mental health.

Jill Seamans

According to a letter to the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) from Commissioner of Revenue Liz Hamlett, other medical offices in the county pay both real estate and personal property taxes.

Hamlett said the request from SDHS for tax exemption was initiated with the release of the deed of trust with the county.

“The primary duty of the commissioner of the revenue is to ensure that taxes are assessed equitably and uniformly,” Hamlett said. “Though we have never taxed SDHS, we have taxed other medical offices in the county. Thus, I contacted SDHS and addressed the situation, informing them that we will need to correct this. This, in turn, prompted the letter to the board from SDHS.”

According to Hamlett, to her knowledge, SDHS has not been assessed real or personal property taxes.

“I have searched through archived records; each record relating to SDHS says they are tax-exempt,” Hamlett said. “However, I cannot find a record of why they have never been taxed. SDHS indicated that there was an “agreement” that they would be tax-exempt, but I cannot find a written agreement, nor can the health center locate one.”

In addition to Lunenburg County, according to SDHS CEO Jill Seamans, the organization has also asked for tax exemption in Amelia and Dinwiddie, in which they have offices.

“This is the first year, to my knowledge, that SDHS has been asked to pay taxes in Lunenburg County,” Seamans said.

In a letter to the BOS, Seamans wrote, “Lunenburg Medical Center has been providing medical care since then to thousands of residents, many of whom are below the federal poverty level and are able to use the services at a significant discount due to the sliding fee program offered by SDHS. Many of these patients may not otherwise be able to afford, or have access to health care. Additionally, SDHS offers many programs to indigent members of the community to include prescription assistance and offers free sports physicals to Lunenburg County students.”

According to Seamans, during 2020, SDHS has served more than 11,000 patients. More than 2,785 of are residents of Lunenburg County.

“SDHS remained open throughout the pandemic serving patients and offering COVID services to include daily testing,” Seamans said. “Since February 2021, Lunenburg Medical Center has administered 926 COVID vaccines. Being a part of this initiative has greatly helped patients become vaccinated and offered a local solution for residents. SDHS also generously donated 1,000 pediatric masks to Lunenburg County Public Schools.”

During its Thursday, June 10 meeting, BOS members briefly discussed the issue but took no vote on the tax exemption request.

On Monday, June 21, Hamlett said, “This is still in the research/discussion phase … There does not appear to be anything in the ordinances of Lunenburg County that exempts them from taxation.”