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Southern Dominion asks to remain tax free

In just a few weeks, the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) will discuss a request from Southern Dominion Health System (SDHS) to be exempt from the county taxes.

The request came after an inquiry from Commissioner of Revenue Liz Hamlett and a unanimous vote by the BOS to cancel a $700,000 loan and release the Deed of Trust.

Jill Seamans

At the May 13 BOS meeting, County Attorney Frank Rennie advised that according to the Deed of Trust Note dated March 20, 2000, between the county and Lunenburg County Community Health Center, the debt of $700,000 from the county for construction of a community health center would be forgiven if the facility continued to be used as a medical center for at least 20 years.

“Southern Dominion Health System, Inc, requested release from the debt without payment, as they have satisfied the 20-year commitment,” Rennie said.

Now the BOS must decide if SDH should be tax-exempt as well.

According to a letter to the BOS from Hamlett, other medical offices in the county pay both real estate and personal property taxes.

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 exemptions in Amelia and Dinwiddie counties, in which they also have offices.

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

In her request to the BOS, Seamans said 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,” Seamans said. “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 served more than 11,000 patients. More than 2,785 are residents of Lunenburg County.

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