Ron Hankins Spins His Opinion of the Hospital District Tax Versus SomCo Tax Before (Sep 2016)


 
Glen Rose Medical Center-Somervell County

Ron Hankins Spins His Opinion of the Hospital District Tax Versus SomCo Tax Before (Sep 2016)
 


14 October 2016 at 8:00:46 PM
salon

Guess What! Everybody gets to have an opinion. Ron Hankins sure has his, but that doesn't make his opinions always right or better than anyone else's, even if it seems he has a little movie in his head to tell him he's always right and  no matter how many times he is belligerent or threatens to punch people or sics police on them for expressing an opinion in the newspaper. Others, including me,  have opinions and mine are based on what you will read below. The action to take is not simply to listen to anyone who asserts an opinion, but look into the facts and judge for yourself. 

Here's what Hankins said in a recent meeting, in part

bottom line, so many people that got angry about hospital district like brand new tax it wasn't, county had been funding it. People just didn't know it. Shifted it, lucky we still got it, came within 2 votes of losing. County didn't hvae the deep pockets we'd have lost the hospital then. A lot of people don't realize what they'd got. ... 

So let's examine this, starting first with a bit of background beginning in about 2007/2008. 

Glen Rose Medical Center was a private non-profit hospital that leased the hospital premises from Somervell County for one dollar a year. Somervell County took part of our taxes, approximately 3 cents to pay for indigent care, because legally mandated to do so. (There's another discussion to be had about how the indigent money is spent, but the basic issue is an ethical one, taking care of the poor and needy in our community). 

Glen Rose Medical Center decided at some point that they wanted to expand the hospital and do some remodeling that would cost about 14.4 million bucks. Because Glen Rose Medical Foundation was private, they couldn't simply tax anyone, nor could Somervell County. Gary Marks went to the federal govenment to try to get funding and was turned down. He then went to Chet Edwards for an earmark. Chet Edwards was only able to get about half the money promised. Somervell County had to take out certificates of obligation bonds to secure money to be loaned TO private GRMC, and there had to be an IRS hearing to do so (because governments can't just be giving or loaning money to private entities without the public agreeing.) Nobody went to the hearing. It passed and Somervell County got the certificates which GRMC then spent on the remodel. GRMC was supposed to start paying it back, in payments over X many years, but before that happened, Gary Marks went on a push to set an election to create a hospital district. A hospital district wasn't going to be charging 3 cents for the indigent, but in their first take on the hearing, the district tried to go for 75 cents on the dollar. Jerry Lee showed up to the hearing and put the kibosh on that. I dont' remember for sure but I think the first tax amount on a revised petition was about 12 cents. 

The hospital was turned over to  the county to run because GRMC wasn't going to be able to pay back the 14.4 million certificates of obligation. Before that happened, behind the scenes there were plans to try for a hospital district. Gary Marks, as many will remember, before this happened, did a series of PR events in various places in Somervell County in February 2009 to promote the idea of a hospital district.  (I attended 2 meetings and recorded them). Gary Marks said that if a district passed, there would no longer be any chance for federal funding, and the benefit was that they could get property taxes.  Glen Rose Medical Center did not qualify as a community hospital since there are too many other hospitals within 25 miles of here. Glen Rose Medical Center was also run by a private foundation that, as I mentioned above, leased the premises for a buck a year from the county. Gary Marks said that should a hospital district be voted in that that management could change (remember that as of today, Ray Reynolds has never been evaluated, violating bylaws of the district). I certainly remember one or two people at those meetings bringing up the indigent care tax, including Foy Edwards, and of course anyone paying attention to the Somervell County budget knew we were paying for the indigent. .(Incidentally, if you watch the videos you will see Gary Marks make reference to how it's okay to operate and spend tax money outside our own defined district. I believe this is incorrect, since two hospital districts cannot exist in the same territory, which Hood County does. Also, Somervell County Hospital District board made reference about a year ago to get an intergovernmental agreement to operate Pecan Clinic, which tacitly shows that even Ray Reynolds and the board  believe they are operating there illegally. Some on the board also made attempts to get Texas Attorney General opinions but were voted down.)

A little arrogant of Ron Hankins to insult the citizenry by saying people didn't know our taxes were going, at least the indigent part, to fund the hospital. I do think a lot of people were napping, including me, when the 14.4 million went through. That's 14.4 million plus interest. 

So, WHEN was Glen Rose Medical Center, run by private Glen Rose Medical Foundation,  supposed to start paying BACK this money? Gee, in September 2009 -(PDF of the payment schedule)  You see? In February 2009 Gary Marks started pushing for a district and it would have the effect of the TAXPAYER paying all this debt INSTEAD OF GRMF, who had been LOANED this money as a private entity as Certificates of *OBLIGATION* and there was a September deadline looming. Makes you wonder if GRMF had already been planning a hospital district from the start of getting that money and had no practical intention to try to pay it back. 

The first hospital district election resoundingly failed, despite dire claims that the hospital would close if it didn't pass.Even Gary Marks said, in answer to a question by Foy Edwards, that the hospital would not close if the district didn't pass, but that the county would be making the decision.  Instead, it reverted to being run by Somervell County (who had all that debt in their name, remember?) and they appointed some people to sit on an *authority* board, including Larry Shaw. 

Incidentally, there were at least a couple of people on the Commissioners Court, after the hospital was taken over by the county, who wanted to find out about having a 3rd party run the hospital. CHS/Lake Granbury Medical Center at that point was interested, but there were factions that deliberately ignored those attempts.If you watched the videos above, you heard Gary Marks say that management could change, and, after all, GRMC was, before it went to be run by the county, a PRIVATE hospital, so it would be more than hypocritical for anyone to be against a private hospital running GRMC since GRMF (Glen Rose Medical Foundation) was doing that. James Barnard said at the time that the indigent tax was about 3 cents and the indebtedness (CO bonds)  was 3 cents, thus about 6 cents. YOu can hear the audio, which is also still today on the county website, excerpted here. 

You see? We went from a county tax that was paying approximately 6 1/2 cents to a district that currently is at 13 cents, and can go up to 17 without an election (and go as far as 75 cents). Plus hospital districts have the power of emiment domain, which the county did not have. This was not "shifting" a tax.

I started hearing in November 2012 that GRMC was planning a second election to get that dang hospital district passed so they could get property taxes. What this means is they were not making enough money to be supporting themselves UNLESS they became a district that could ultimately go up to 75 cents on the dollar. That same old scaremongering twaddle went out that THE HOSPITAL WILL CLOSE if the hospital district was not voted in. In fact, the commissioners went to the Glen Rose Reporter to say WE ARE NOT CLOSING THE HOSPITAL. (That was in 2013). Seems like that upcoming election was the weekend of Mother's day or some other holiday, just like the first one had been the weekend of Valentine's Day. I was told by someone that the attorney for the hospital TOLD the people pushing the district to have the election on a day when turnout would be low. And consider that some at the hospital thought that the original 17 1/2 cents was too low, but they were afraid that the district might not pass if they made it higher. Sure enough, the second time the district narrowly passed. In fact, if a couple of more people  had just gone out to vote, we would not have a hospital district. (One man told me he had been out of town, after all it WAS a holiday)

Some thought that once we got a hospital district that the 14.4 million of CO would go away, like waving a magic wand. Nope. The district took on that indebtedness, although Somervell County is still involved because the bonds are in their name and their rating would be affected if the district doesn't pay. And it's not clear to me that, once Somervell County no longer had to pay that 6/12 cents that they decremented the budget for it. 

Because we live in a democracy and Ron Hankins is not dictator, the dream castle he has built up where the hospital should not be scrutinized, the administrator should not be evaluated, the money should flow like water, including to the rich folks in Hood County, are not necessarily what other people agree with. I'm sure some do. I know for a fact a lot of us don't. I'd personally have liked to have seen a 3rd party take over the hospital, would have liked for GRMF to have PAID BACK that 14.4 mil they said they would instead of putting it on OUR backs,  get rid of the non-accountable OSA slushfund through the 501a, would like us not to spend one more dime in Hood County's hospital district UNLESS the current board confirms through an intergovernmental agreement or an AG opinion that what they're doing is LEGAL. I wouldn't have approved, in the dire situation with Luminant that was looming, taking out loans for (Somervell County? no) Hood County's Pecan clinic. I would have Dr Vacek step off the board since, as an employee, he is breaking the law to be on the board. I would change the CEO, who is an at-will employee, especially since he allowed a woman who stole money from a church to remain as Director in charge of patient records and HPPA privacy. It troubles me that now that Luminant has apparently settled the property tax lawsuit, the board and GRMC will say "Let's Open the Wallets and Soak the Taxpayers! Yay!". 

 I also want a hospital but I think, given the fact that people are typically flown or ambulanced over to other hospitals anyway, that a GREAT emergency room would fit our community. I've been against a hospital district, NOT against the hospital, for some years now (and you all DO understand the difference, right, in wanting health care versus a government board that can raise taxes and has been operating with little responsible oversight).  And I get, even if NO ONE shares my opinion, which I know is not true, to speak it and speak out to counter Ron Hankins opinion.


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