Got this via an open records request to Candace Garrett, done on Nov 5 2013 at 12:26 pm. .
I am requesting, on CD, audio of the Somervell County Commissioners meeting that was held today 11/5/2013. I am happy to pay the full cost and will come in to get it. If , on the other hand, the audio is put on the website in the next 24 hours, I am happy with that as well.
A second reply from Nikki from the Clerk's office indicated that the county put up the audio at 4:52 pm, at which time I downloaded the audio, listened to it and made my own clip.
Rough transcript-Here's the attorney for the district's opinion. Note that this is uncharted territory.
Kevin Reed from Austin law firm. No case law regarding dissolution of a hospital district because this hasn't happened very often. If a petition is presented, board takes the petition and begins to verify petition, gets voter roll. Go through and verify contents, take some time to do that. Doesn't have any timing for that process... district will act on a timely basis as quickly as it can, take a few days to walk through. Timing for election itself, election is mandatory if sufficient number of signatures. Within 60 days. When elections called, uniform election dates don't apply, can pick any date.. who pays, ultimately the taxpayer. Specific language for the ballot. Dissolution-yes or no, simple ballot language.
Seems to me the ballot language should have the same provision about transferring assets, etc. Why wouldn't it?
If there is a vote in favor, district would be dissolved. If district not dissolved, can't have another vote for a year. Complicated-if district dissolved, number of things happen. Different than the petition. Petition says the asset returned to the county. Not the responsibility of the petition but the district. District board can say we're dissolved and turn everything over immediately or can choose to not do that and choose to maintain the district, pay off debts and then resolve the assets over a period of time. They owe county 14 million dollars, one option would be that district stay in existence, continue to tax, but only thing tax for is the 14 mil they owe, or continue to tax, pay county debt and operate district until debt paid off, then would have to turn over the assets to county or any other political subdivision within boundaries of the district, might take a period of years. When statute originally passed, TXLege thought about putting in that district dissolved within 2 years, so perhaps would be a lengthy process. Depends on decision that the board makes.
Ford: The way it's written here, they can transfer assets to a governmental entity. Does the governtal entity have the right to refuse the transfer? REED: Statute doesn't say. Couldn't just impose on the governmental entity especially if there is debt associated with it, but statute doesn't say. If hospital district paid off the debt and only had assets could gift off to any entity, governmental entity might not be able to say no.
Reed: What happens to indigent care obligation. AG-returns to county on date of the election. County gets indigent care back on day of dissolution not at the end of dissolution.
Ford: Assuming that were to happen, since tax notices have gone out, if comes back to county before a certain period of time, that all tax dollars raised for district go back to taxpayer.
Reed: No chance for any tax money going back to the taxpayer. Current tax period is committed. Money for both debt and operations. Future revenue. Statute does have a provision that you can return surplus money but there's no chance of any surplus money (14 million debt) . When dissolution be final until all obligations of the district are taken care of, completely taken care of that debt or given the debt back to the county, taken care of all the debt obligations that the district has.
What about new debt if district dissolved?
Reed: have to receive a report from the district showing that all taken care of, could be years from now. If Authority still a governmental entity and it is, (inactive) -if board elects to transfer, certs of obligation. If majority favors dissolution, what about current board? Would there be an election in May 2014? Election cycle could not be disrupted, even if board continued through dissolution. Have to ask AG, be elected a board for a district that is in a wind down dissolution phase. Not sure that's ever occurred before. Probably still have to have May elections. If any current board members resign, who appoints? Current board fills vacancies. Can board use current and future revenue for anything but debt. Current tax levey can be used for operations, if dissolution occurs, future tax levies can only be used to pay down debt, can't raise money for operations in the future. If board elects to transfer, does govt have to accept? Desire of the hospital board is to strictly follow the law, but if it occurs they will do everything to carry out the responsiblity they have.
Curtis. If hospital district elected to retain administratorship of hospital until all debt finalized, they would continue the administration, yes? Yes. Ford: But they would not be taxing for operations. Reed. Would only be taxing for the debt. Reed: Legislature's hope would be that the dissolution would be a shorter process than that.
If district chose to go that way, could they choose to set a higher tax to pay it off? Reed: Would still be subject to the rollback rate, but the statute worded very oddly in its discussion of tax in this circumstance.
Maynard: Current tax rate only set to cover new equipment, indigent goes back to county. Wouldn't gain very much.
Reed: If one of the things you're trying to accomplish is to perhaps look for a partner or to sell the asset, the dissolution of the district diminishes the value of the asset. If somebody is out looking to purchase, they are looking for a district because they want someone to cover the indigent care. This is going to be a process, we are going to run into some unknowns, some things that are going to be problemattic. County attorney has been extremely helpful. Going to hit things and we don't know how to do it.
Ford: He mentioned sale or lease, are you all involved in that? (to Larry).
Shaw: We've asked our CEO to do discussions. We don't know what that could involve. ... we don't have a time line. Throw it open to the public
Harper: I actually have a comment. I'd like to present the petitions.
Shaw: I don't know, can we do that? It's not on the agenda.
Harper: Neither is public comments
Shaw: We didn't ask for public comments, we asked for questions relative to the discussion.
Harper - This petition is relevant to what your whole discussion is about.
Shaw: We open the floor to questions. .. ? Needs to be on the agenda according to Texas law.
Harper. Well, so does public comments
Maynard -We could take no action on it. Why give it to us, Paul , have to give it back to you to give it to us at an action time.
Harper. No, I can give it to you and you can take ownership of it.
Reed: You can just give it to Ray today and then we'll start the process. If you meant to do that, that's fine.
Harper. I would like to make two points. We specifically put in the petition to transfer land... etc In the petition to create the hospital district were all of your names, it wasn't on the ballot, none of you were elected but because your names were specifically on that petition, the commissioners put you on this board. So they respected the wishes of your petition and we would like you guys to transfer this stuff and not go through the dissolve process and two, to make sure the hospital district new tax is dissolved. That is our goal. So I would say, you might think you could go forever and (?) debt forever but I would argue that we respected your petition and you should respect ours.
Shaw hushes up Whittle. We're not going to get into discussions not on our agenda. He's raising the question.
? If the district is dissolved, can they incur additional debt? Reed: no
? Something about more debt if turned back to Somervell County, paying more taxes? Reed: Actually I can't answer that question.
Ford: I'm afraid to get off onto that. Creation of the district blew the model for figuring out taxes completely out of the water because of nature of turning over responsibility from one entity to another. Not sure what that does on other side. Thing to remember is that we are still beholden to an 8 percent rollback and doesn't have to do with the debt proportion. Add back in to our tax rate, but would be same thing that hospital district has right now, very specific payment on that debt. Indigent health care no choice but to add 8 percent for indigent health care. Example -we budget between 900,000 to 1 million for health care, we usually spend 325 to half million, having to budget excess amount. District not under that same requirement. Biggest difference between how a district and county budget for health care. Other side of it is it impacts other services county is trying to provide.
Oh, like the golf course?
Tax history -Reed: Currently pays the debt. Can't make out next comment but heard something about a fungus on the earth. You need to pay the debt.. economic hard times
? How much money are you getting off the 1115 waiver? ? Net 200,000 (Not sure of that number, 300,000?, listen to audio) That's another thing you would lose if you lose the district.
I would question that. Seems like they were going for that 1115 waiver when still an authority.
Maynard (asking Paul Harper a direct question about the petition). What do they feel the county would do that the hospital district isn't doing? Evidently the tax money's going to be the same.
Harper: I don't think I can answer that because everyone had a different reason for signing the petition. I can't say we all say this because it's not what we say in the petition. We all agree on what it says in the petition. Anything outside of that you'll hear varying answers depending on who you ask. Some people want to get rid of it because the board's not elected, some people want to get rid of it because they want to get rid of the property tax, some people like the way it was before it got transferred in the first place, depends on who you ask. I don't want to go and misspeak for everybody and say this