|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - June 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
New TMHD budget includes 10% tax cut
Trinity Standard -
TRINITY – A new budget that incorporates a 10 percent cut in property taxes was approved Monday night by the Trinity Memorial Hospital District’s board of directors. The new budget lists $622,500 in total income and $452,455 in expenses, giving the district income in excess of expenses of more than $170,000. In the past, hospital board members have said they plan to use the excess income to help rebuild the district’s reserve fund, which would be used to pay for major projects in the future as well as handle any emergencies that might arise. Under the new budget plan the tax rate, which would be formally set in September, would drop from the current level of 18.32 cents per $100 in assessed value down to 16.49 cents. This would mean that a property owner with taxable value (after exemptions) of $50,000 would pay $82.45 in hospital taxes during the coming year, down from the $91.60 assessed currently. The hospital board had previously approved the 10 percent cut in taxes and has also “agreed in principal” to cut the rate by another 10 percent next year. The board had indicated that because improvements planned for the hospital facility have either been completed or are underway, they can begin reducing their property tax rate. Improvements completed over the past several years included the addition of an emergency room (ER) waiting area, the complete renovation of the ER and the addition of a new clinic attached to the south side of East Texas Medical Center-Trinity. Work now underway on the hospital includes the addition of a new 15-room patient wing, a new entryway, a new kitchen and cafeteria as well as space for a future surgical suite. The hospital district has already paid all of the local cost for these projects and local taxpayers are not required to pay off long-term bonds or other debt. To fund this work, the district used its reserve fund as well as a Medicare Upper Payment Limit (UPL) program that indirectly helped provide much of the money needed for the hospital expansion. According to the new budget, which goes into effect on July 1, the hospital district’s revenues are expected to decline by $43,700 during the coming year primarily due to the cut in taxes. The new tax rate is expected to generate $603,000 in income during the coming year and the district expects to receive $3,500 in interest income as well as $16,000 from the tobacco settlement reached several years ago between the state and major tobacco companies. At the same time, overall expenses are projected to climb by $14,455 due to increases in payments required by the Trinity County Appraisal District, ($355) the tax collection office ($8,100), professional fees ($5,000) and office expenses ($1,000). Abortion question In other discussion, the board directly addressed a question involving abortions raised in a letter to the editor that appeared in the May 20 edition of The Trinity Standard. In that letter, Sandra Beene asked if the new surgical suite planned at the hospital would be used to provide abortions. While ETMC Administrator Warren Robicheaux noted in a response that appeared with the letter that abortion services were not planned, both the local hospital board as well as the ETMC corporate board are now stating that abortions will never be provided at the local facility. Byron Hale of ETMC’s corporate office in Tyler, assured the local TMHD board that “by policy” ETMC does not and will not provide abortion services at any of its medical facilities located throughout East Texas. Construction program During the meeting, the board also received a brief update on the hospital expansion project now underway. Board member Jim Rippey, who chairs the Long Range Planning Committee, told the board that to date, construction has consisted primarily of the dirt work to prepare the site. He noted that because of the addition of a new kitchen and dining area on the south side of the hospital, the gazebo currently located in that area will have to be removed. “In about a month, a new one will be built near the site of the old helipad,” he said, adding that the plaque currently located on the existing gazebo would be moved to the new structure and a new dedication ceremony would be held. Rippey and Robicheaux noted that much of the dirt work now underway is for the hospital’s parking area. “When you look at the work going on it might seem like overkill for a parking lot, but it is necessary,” Robicheaux said. He noted the soil in the area is very sandy and to prevent future problems, it has to be excavated. Rippey noted that when completed, the new parking lot will be made entirely of concrete and all existing asphalt areas will be replaced. Robicheaux added that ETMC officials in Tyler are currently drawing up deeds to transfer ownership of some of the ETMC-owned land over to the hospital district. The new 15-room patient wing is set to extend north from the existing hospital onto land now owned by ETMC. Because the building will be owned by TMHD, ETMC officials have agreed to donate any property needed for the structure to the district. Other business During the meeting, the hospital board also: • Learned from Robicheaux that during May, the local hospital provided $226,429 in free or discounted services to low-income patients. ETMC provides free care to those who qualify as indigent. A second “charity” program provides reduced cost care to the poor who do not quite qualify for the indigent program. Robicheaux said that during the month they had 27 patients to qualify for either indigent or charity care, including two who were admitted to the hospital and 25 who were treated in the ER. • Learned that during May, a total of 746 patients were seen in the ER, the highest number in over six months. • Re-elected its current officers to new terms for the coming year. Larry King will remain as president, Dave Ward will continue as vice president and Carlyn Bluis will serve another year as secretary. • Voted to cancel the July 19 board meeting due to the number of board members who will be on vacation at that time. • Learned the district had an opportunity to invest another $300,000 in the UPL program recently but passed because the board currently has not committed to developing another construction project. King noted there will be another opportunity in a “couple of months.” Under the UPL program, if the board invested $300,000, the federal program would return $780,000 which could be used by ETMC to fund indigent care programs. The UPL money would then free up other ETMC funds which could be used for local projects, • Moved forward with the development of a color brochure proposed by Bluis. The brochure will be used to provide information to area residents about the hospital district including its history, budget and other facts.