About 40 attended the first of two meetings to discuss the protection of the Central Park Park Fire District’s ability to levee at the fire station last night. With a new hospital district potentially pushing smaller fire districts throughout the county closer to their taxing authority maximum, District 2 Chief Leonard Johnson said “We may have a tax impact next year that may result in us increasing property taxes in the fire district from a process that we’re allowed to under law, but it doesn’t require us to go to [ask] the taxpayers.” Johnson described the complicated levee payout process that could put the smaller districts at risk of cap, but also caps out the larger districts taxing authority district-wide. This can incentivize what’s called a buyback, where a larger district pays a smaller not to use their levy, in order to tax at a higher rate across it’s entire district – all legal under RCW. Asked if both districts were interested, Johnson said yes.
With the proposed formation of a Public Hospital District #2 in Western Grays Harbor, and the possible expansion of District #1 in East county, portions of Fire District 2 have become the knot in the middle of a game of tug-o-war.
Many questions last night asked if Grays Harbor Community Hospital was putting it’s debt on the public dime, CEO Tom Jensen explained “We’re not trying to become a public hospital district to “tax” we’re trying to become a public hospital to get access to a higher reimbursement rate from a bill that was put together and lobbied for two years. If we can get the bill, it means bringing into this community another 3 million dollars. And it says right in the bill that if you want access to this you have to become a Public Hospital District and you have to own and operate it. Now that doesn’t mean Tom Jensen, that means you as the community will own and operate that facility, and I will tell you that with an extra 3 million in the bank, that organization will make money.
Central Park resident Frank Scherer asked Jensen “What are the current debt of the hospital, and liabilities outstanding, and why do the taxpayers have to make that up to make this hospital solvent?” Jensen replied “Long term debt bonds are about 36-million dollars, technically the bill doesn’t state that it has to be taxed, to that will be up to the commissioners. It won’t even be up to me, So the commissioners will make the decision on what that tax rate will be, we’re just communicating what it could be. And more than likely the most that we could get if we became a Public Hospital District is 42 cents.”
Along with whether to form the district, your August Ballot will ask you to select a District Commissioner, and 2 at-large Commissioners, for a total of 7 that will make up the public board if the district is approved. If it isn’t approved, you might just see a proposition on the November ballot to add a few cities into the current Hospital District #1 in East County.
Seeing that some of the new district’s potential commissioners are former and current employees of the non-profit hospital, one woman asked why? I asked Police Chief Bob Torgerson if he was planning on stuffing his pockets from the public coffers “The reason to run for any public office is to serve the community, the other reason is that I’m not part of the group that is currently running the hospital. I’ve had 40 years of public experience being in the public eye, doing public service, but the whole purpose is to make it better for everybody.” Torgerson is running against the hospital’s former CFO Tim Howden for the 1st At Large position
The question and answer session lasted about an hour last night, you’ll have more chances to ask questions at one of two meetings next week.
Hospital Administrators will be at the Log Pavillion in Aberdeen Wednesday evening, July 23rd for a debate hosted by the League of Woman Voters beginning at 6, then a second meeting hosted by Fire District #2 is being held in Brady that night at 7.
Listen to Johnson with Doug McDowell on CoffeeTalk earlier this week.