One thing I have heard repeatedly from a large number of people is that they would be very happy with having a really good emergency services hospital rather than wanting to be a full service hospital. In fact, I found it dumbfounding when I read that letter in the paper from a Hood County citizen who wanted us to vote for a full service hospital. Gee, Hood County residents already have a hospital district in which they pay ZERO tax, but how nice of some, including in Pecan Plantation, who receive Somervell County taxes for the Family Medical Center, to want us to raise our own taxes to help them out while they pay zip. Where has the discussion been to ask what Somervell County residents want and what are they willing to pay for? We have to remember that this is not an area devoid of hospitals; in fact, when GRMC, then private, attempted to get a large grant from the federal government some years back, they were turned down because there were too many hospitals within X miles.
And does that hospital HAVE to be public? If it can be private, then what objections do people have with having a private entity run it? It's not like Glen Rose Medical Center was not itself a private hospital, first as Marks Hospital, and then in the mid 2000's as private. Baylor Medical has had some kind of partnership with GRMC for at least the last 2-3 years and last I checked, they're out of Dallas. Is it that people feel like they need to have a momument to the Marks family? I truly don't understand why there are some people who are against having a private entity run a hospital here who also were all gung ho when it was Gary Marks private hospital.
Is it the "We want local control of our hospital" argument? Does that mean that even when local control breaks the law (as in your tax money going to fund a clinic in a gated communtiy in another county) or has dicey accounting practices that are not transparent or wants to pay $40k for a PR person?
Is it "We want our jobs to stay" as if a local hospital run by whoever would not hire local people to work there. Also, ask yourself, does every single person that works for the hospital now LIVE in Somervell County? I'll bet not.
I actually thought it was strange that the Somervell County Hospital District board wants to go with 10.5 cents as their tax rate. They don't have to set or publish effective or rollback rates for this year as this is the baseline year that the next budget will be compared against. Also, the projected tax rate has already been pubilshed and people have had some time to get used to it; in other words, people will always complain about taxes in general If, as a couple of people on the board said, 10.5 is too low for what they believe they need to run the hospital successfully. Having 12.5 would allow for them to build up a reserve, etc. (I say nothing here about whether WHAT they want to spend it on -hello, PR Person for $40k a year - or HOW their strange accounting practices are not transparent).
I'm talking about where Gary Whittle said that they would make up for this low-ball number with effective and rollback rates (which can go up to 8 percent over) in the future. So, effective rates essentially are for when property values go down and you need to meet your budget-you can raise taxes so that you make your budget numbers. Rollback rates say whatever you had the previous year plus up to an extra 8 percent for those operations.
The rollback rate is a calculated maximum rate allowed by law without voter approval The rollback rateprovides the taxing unit with about the same amount of tax revenue it spent the previous year for day-to-day operations, plus an extra eight percent increase for those operations, in addition to sufficient funds to pay debts in the coming year. If a taxing unit adopts a tax rate higher than the rollback rate, voters in the taxing unit can circulate a petition calling for an election to limit the size of the tax increase
Essentially what that seems like to me is that the hospital is deliberately hobbling itself for at least a year, because they cannot actually charge for effective and rollback rates until the tax bills come out in August of 2014. Whether I agree that we shoudl have a district or not (and I do not), going DOWN to 10.5 when people were growing accustomed to 12.5 (and that's what they all seem to agree that they need to run successfully) smells of another example of mismanagement, from the same people that decided to be appointed to the board (as a side note, can anyone tell me why having Karen Burroughs on the board and also the head of the 501a that receives money FROM the board is not a conflict of interest?) I also consider it highly irresponsible of Larry Shaw to not go for the higher amount.I remind that I am not one of those anti-tax people who would get rid of all taxes, I believe in taxes when they are for the public good, transparently spent, and well managed. I don't believe GRMC has been doing this. Larry Shaw said, from the GR Reporter
Chairman Larry Shaw said the board held a previous discussion related to the formula they would use in setting a tax rate and agreed tax collections should not exceed the sum of bad debt and bond payments, indigent care and capital expenses.
He makes it sound like it might match the same amount that the Somervell County Commissioners Court allocated . But that's just not so. Even if you take what James Barnard said previously about the amount being 7 1/2 cents to run the hospital, that doesn't take into account the shortfall money that GRMC regularly asked for, the loan they took out this last year to make MORE improvements to Pecan Plantation Family Medical Center (and now have to make payments on), or the 501a money that gets funnelled to doctors through an operating account without even a written agreement or requisition records to show how it's being spent or justified. I have not seen anyone get a true number on what actually the hospital has been spending from Somervell County taxpayers but the shortfall begs have been, to put it nicely, a sleight of hand over what supposedly the hospital costs. And since it's the same dang people that have been operating this without strong accountability and transparency, what makes anyone think that will suddenly change without some external force making them?
Let's also break down for a moment what he references. Bad debt, caused partly because GRMC had no procedure in place to determine just who qualified truly for indigent care, poor collection methods (I have heard more than one story about GRMC not being able to provide a written bill with the expenses breakdown when asked to justify a bill), bond payments (which is that 14.4 million bucks plus interest that Mike Ford illegally led the way to vote for several years back, which is in the county's name, so GRMC has to pay back those payments to the county), and capital expenses (which can also include that money going out to Pecan Plantation and the 501a) Would citizens of Glen Rose be happy if expectations were scaled back on what the hospital should be or would they like some big tax increases to make the hospital full service, to do all and be all for everyone? Maybe the more well to do elements in the county might like the latter, perhaps those are the same people who want taxpayer subsidies of their golf hobby, but what about the rest of the people that live here, some of whom are in modest homes, are elderly and can least afford more taxes?Don't forget that in a recent meeting of the hospital board that Angie Robertson talked about future expansion plans. What ARE those future expansion plans and how much the fool will they cost US? Also, we believe that spending taxpayer money in gated, private, Hood County's Pecan Family Medical Center is against the law. Suppose that, for example, Hood County tomorrow went to a judge and got an injunction against Somervell spending in their county. GRMC has said that they get 60-65 percent of their revenues from that clinic and that this is their cash cow. If I had a business and I told you that while selling cupcakes, I was also selling dope to high school students and that got me 65 percent of my revenue to stay in business, would that be okay? In other words, is it okay to do illegal activities to justify making money? If that money was GONE tomorrow, wouldn't citizens of Somervell County HAVE to scale back expectations on what kind of hospital they would want to have and enjoy and decide who might run it?
Point is that I want this conversation. I'd love to see a Town hall meeting set at a time when most people would be able to attend, with an open forum to talk about and discuss the hospital. I would put the GRMC AND the commissioners on the stage and encourage discussion, not to necessarily include a round of "Rah Rah Blah" stuff but actually discussing the issues, maybe making a survey for people to fill out with their suggestions.
P.S. One of the doctors that gets the 501a money that is funneled through our taxes told me he didn't think he was making enough money. I honestly felt like I was listening to a whiner, and didn't have much sympathy. I heard anecdotally, cannot verify, that said doctor may also have been working another set of jobs besides his contract with GRMC, and wishes to get more moolah from GRMC. Tell that to the people who are being laid off from, say, the county budget which despite going up is still laying people off.