Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Hospital District board votes to place 2-cent tax on ballot

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After deliberating for months and attempting to educate the public, the Hood County Hospital District board voted Friday, May 24, to add a hospital district tax to the November ballot. The tax proposed is an ad valorem tax on property of 2 cents per $100 of valuation. 

The debate among board members had been whether to place 1/2 cent, 1 cent or 2 cents per $100 of valuation on the ballot in the November election.

The proposed amount will appear on the ballot as a tax. All Texas residents are responsible to pay for indigent and jail inmate care by law through their county or their hospital district (if they have one).

In most counties residents pay an ad valorem tax to cover indigent and jail inmate care. Prior to 1996, Hood County residents paid this tax as well. At that time the rate was 15 cents per $100 of valuation.

In 1996, Hospital Corporations of America negotiated an agreement that allowed them to lease the hospital for $15 million from 1996-2026, with an option to renew for an additional 10 years for $1,000. At about the same time, the Hood County Hospital District board voted to do away with the hospital district tax entirely. The problem, states the board, is that now they will have to reinstate a tax.

The HCHD has maintained operations from this fund since 1996 but funds are drying up.

Discussion opened to questions from the floor. Some residents wondered why the tax had to be on property values.

“The legislation actually tells you that it can only be an ad valorem tax,” Ricky Reeves of Texas EMS explained.

Additionally, there was discussion as to whether this would change services for the residents of Pecan Plantation who have an ambulance service. The assurance was that the hospital district tax would not change the arrangement between Pecan and the Texas EMS ambulance service.

The board voted to accept a bid from Pavlik & Associates for $10,000 (not including postage) to provide services to educate the community about the proposed tax. The company’s role will be to make the citizens aware of what the tax is and what it will pay for so they can make an informed decision about how they would like to vote.

Hospital District board members agree the optics on a “new” tax are problematic. HCHD Board President Christy Massey explained she is not a fan of taxes but if the tax is not passed when the citizens vote and subsequently the Hospital District ceases to exist due a lack of funds, then the Commissioners Court will likely pass the tax on to the voters.

“Either way, we are going to have to pay a tax,” Massey said.