Health Picture of Health

Comparing Baltimore County hospitals' property values

One thing missing from The Sun's newly released database of Baltimore County property taxes is the assessed value of most hospitals.

As not-for-profit entities, they are largely listed only as paying metro construction loan costs, with the exception of St. Joseph Medical Center, which listed an assessed value of $8.48 million for its main property on Osler Drive. Even that number is likely to be partial - the result of garage revenues or other on-campus space leased by the hospital to outside entities.

A spokesperson for Maryland's department of assessments and taxation says that this is probably because the account for the Osler Drive property was considered a "partial exempt account." In a Thursday email, Charlotte F. Rogers, a supervisor for assessments with the department, wrote that a substantial part of the tax assessment is for "the portion of the garage that generates revenue."

"Other hospitals in Baltimore County have a portion taxable but may be worked on a separate account number from the main hospital," Rogers wrote.

"In this particular instance- the taxable portion was on the main account."

Falling back to 990s

While three of the four county hospitals listed in a University of Maryland directory lacked valuations in the database, all four had reported values in IRS 990 filings -- filings that, Michael Schwartzberg explains, may be nearly as tough to evaluate.

"Just comparing the Form 990s may not provide an accurate 'apples to apples' comparison of similar data," wrote Schwartzberg, a spokesman for Greater Baltimore Medical Center, noting in an email to The Baltimore Sun that the four Baltimore County institutions may have significantly different ways of categorizing building, equipment and land costs.

As an example, one number that jumps out -- the "0" in Northwest Hospital's "leasehold improvement" category -- is easily explained by Northwest's operators: The hospital owns all its space, according to David Krajewski, president of finance for the hospital's parent, LifeBridge Health. In GBMC's case, however, much of the substantial spending under "leasehold improvements" is for changes to outdoor infrastructure, including roads, stormwater ponds and sidewalks.

Other hospitals may report such improvements differently, Schwartzberg explains, while still staying fully within the realm of legal auditing practices.

With that context of ambiguity established, here are the most recent book values publicly reported.

(Click a header to sort by that column)

IRS filing
Northwest Hospital Center5723096763957210Link
Franklin Square Hospital Center38670286354416858146Link
Greater Baltimore Medical Center152906731529646543144175Link
St Joseph Medical Center4449861503246999957570Link

All the values above are taken from the most recent tax year available on Guidestar, as pulled for the primary hospital entity, foregoing any related foundations or professional associations.

If taken too literally, this table can all be somewhat misleading: As previously described, most primary hospital buildings form only parts of their corresponding campuses, with specialty pavilions, family practice complexes and parking ramps often being valued separately.

In addition, unions, private practice groups or fundraising foundations often have space in proximity to hospitals, extending visitors' perceptions of the campus far beyond the main building. "We can't speak to how others have reported buildings," GBMC's Schwartzberg explains, but "we do have one of our [medical office buildings listed] on the hospital's assets, and perhaps other hospitals report those assets through separate companies." In such situations, hospitals can often act as a landlord in one building and a renter in another.

To look for information on taxed properties, start searching the Baltimore County database here.

An earlier version of this article contained two transposed letters in an acronym. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun