HB- There is, of course, a difference between believing based on certain principles that a court case deciding this matter would resolve it versus it having actually happened. Until the latter happens, I am going to continue to speak about why it is, to me, common sense, that any district that taxes residents is not meant to spend money inside another district that is also its own taxing entity for its residents. Here's some more reasons I believe that lawsuit would be in favor of a district's taxpaying residents.
1. I suspect this doesn't come up more often because districts respect boundaries and don't do it. Imagine if a school district sent our taxes outside the district to pay for services for Granbury residents for their own school district (I'm not here referring to state level juggling of school funds) . An example would be to build a stadium for sports games in Hood County on the principle that renting it out would provide a lot of money to run the school-think Hood County would appreciate what would (see below) create a competitive situation and make it look like Hood County's school district couldn't provide the needed facilities? How about the water district? You believe the taxes I am paying right now for water lines to come to my house should be diverted in any way to Hood county's water system? It's interesting to me that a number of people from Hood County, including Pecan Plantation residents, have told me they don't consider what Somervell County is doing to be fair. (That's not even to mention that there are a lot of people I know in Somervell County who also share the same view).
2. This is not a competitive situation, such as it would be if the hospital was a private, competitive enterprise. . In fact, here's a case (not Texas) that illustrates this principle. Washington State- There are some differences in the laws governing what a district can do but note the point that only if District # 1 has an agreement to operate with District #2 can District # 1 operate a facility within District 2's borders. The reason is that this creates a competitive situation which is not the intent of either district whose primary job is to provide health care/hospital services for its own residents. Although this is Washington, I think this is a relevant principle. Here's one more article on that; note that unlike the rules on districts in texas which do NOT say it's okay to open up a clinic in another district, had District # 2 made an agreement according to state rules, that would have been fine. But ....
Island County Hospital District board members discussed the issue on Nov. 12, according to Scott Rhine, Whidbey General Hospital chief executive officer. “They felt it would be inappropriate,” to support the clinic, Rhine said Monday. “It’s just unusual for another district to put up services unless there’s a need we can’t meet. The more they discussed it, the more they felt it was inappropriate.”
Rhine said the Skagit hospital district opened its Oak Harbor clinic around 1995. It presently has two physicians hired by the Skagit district who refer some of their patients to Island Hospital in Anacortes, thereby depriving Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville of potential business.
As I have said before, Pecan Plantation has an exclusive lease with GRMC, and thus Hood County is not even given the opportunity to provide services to its own residents within the gated confines of PP.
3. We have discussed before that ONLY if a district has explicitly included territory outside its own county in their definition of a hospital district, as in the case of Hopkins County, can they operate outside a county border. In other words, a created district has no authority to beyond the explicit definition voted upon. The thing is, both Somervell and Hood County explicitly say that the boundaries of their respective districts are county borders. Further, the district says that the money is to be spent on residents of the district. Somervell CANNOT tax the residents of Hood County because they are already in their own district (for which they pay no taxes. We cannot even invite Pecan Plantation to join our district in case they might feel a level of guilt that they are benefitting from our taxes while paying none. And, as noted in the law above, if there is a conflict of borders where districts overlap, the most recent district must exclude that territory. That certainly would rule out Pecan Plantation. This OAG opinion, although referring to underground water conservation districts refers to the general rule of law that "two governmental entities cannot exist at the same time over the same territory for the same purpose"
4. The principle reason to have a hospital district is to provide services to residents of the district that are paying the tax. It is not to be operating a competitive, for profit hospital system. That is what CHS is doing for Hood County. If residents of Somervell County want to have free enterprise clinics in other locations, they need to get some people running the healthcare system who will do due diligence to explore those options.
5. While I have not found an explicit opinion from the Texas AG (again, probably because the idea of spending district money outside the district is not usually even considered), there's an interesting comment from this opinion re: Hamilton's hospital district. The question had to do with whether changing a precinct's boundaries through redistricting would alter a hospital district boundary.
The possible consequences of such an arrangement -that persons who had voted for the district and its taxing authority and paid taxes would suddenly find themselves no longer in the district and persons who had not previously been included in the district would find themselves within it and presumably liable for taxes they had not voted for might raise constitutional issues.
6. And finally, it is ridiculous to me that Somervell county taxpayers are paying for a facility that they cannot freely enter because it is in Pecan Plantation. A doctor from PP called the house the other day and told me that he has patients from all over the place and has instructed the gatekeeper to let in any patients from Somervell but said the other doctor does not do that but only treats people from PP within that facility. Even if the former is true, why should there be any constraint on using (or even LOOKING at freely) a facility that we pay for? (Does GRMC get out of paying taxes for that? -notice that in this OAG opinion, the deciding factor was whether the public can use a facility and that if that isn't the case it makes null and void a tax emempt status)
And, incidentally, I believe, although the case is especially strong with a hospital district, that the same principle applies about whether it is okay to spend money in an existing hospital district by a hospital authority that answers to tthe county commissioners.