|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - March 2009
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Hospital tax freeze plan moves forward
Trinity Standard - March 2009
TRINITY – What began four years ago as a local move to freeze senior citizens’ hospital taxes will soon be debated in the Texas legislature.
Members of the Trinity Memorial Hospital District’s board wanted to grant the tax freeze but learned that state law did not give them that option.
While cities, counties and other taxing entities could provide that benefit, hospital districts had been left out of the loop.
“This is something that we wanted to do for the people of the hospital district, but we found that our hands were tied,” Hospital Board President Dave Ward said Monday night.
During the monthly hospital board meeting Monday night, Ward reported that soon could change as the Texas legislatures is preparing to begin hearings on House Bill 1129 and House Joint Resolution 57.
The bill would add hospital districts to the list of taxing entities that could offer a tax freeze and HJR 57 would call a constitutional amendment election in November to gain voter approval for the change.
“Its amazing to me that what began here in this small hospital district will affect every hospital district in the state,” Ward said.
He noted that if approved by the legislature and voters, the change would not be automatic.
“We and every hospital district in the state would have the option to grant the tax freeze to senior citizens and the disabled. Each district would have to decide whether or not they want to do this,” Ward added.
Ward told the board that State Rep. Jim McReynolds, who is the author of HB 1129, has asked that two members of the hospital board come to Austin this month to testify on behalf of the bill.
Ward, board member Larry King and East Texas Medical Center-Trinity Administrator Warren Robicheaux have agreed to make the trip.
Under the tax freeze program, individuals who are 65 years old or over and those who are disabled may apply to have their property taxes frozen. Once a freeze is in place, the dollar amount they would pay each year could not increase unless they made changes to their property, such as building a garage or additional room.
“This would be a benefit both to our senior citizens and disabled veterans and it is something that we have wanted to do for a long time,” Ward said.
In other action during Monday’s meeting, board members:
• Authorized election judge Virginia Johnson to make arrangements to rent an electronic voting machine from Trinity County Clerk Diane McCrory.
• Learned that two new physicians have signed contracts to relocate to Trinity, including an internal medicine specialist. Both will have offices in the new professional building now being completed on the south side of the hospital. Robicheaux has not released their names to give both doctors time to notify their current staff members they will be moving.
• Learned that the opening date for the new professional building has been delayed until sometime in mid-April.
• Learned that since the hospital’s emergency room was remodeled and expanded last year, the number of patients using it has grown from an average of about 500 to 600 per month. Robicheaux reported that during February, a total of 630 patients were treated in the ER, which was a new high for the facility.
• Learned that preliminary plans for the construction of a new 15-18 bed patient wing at the hospital are now scheduled to be ready for review in June or July. Robicheaux noted that when the new wing is completed, many of the existing patient rooms will be converted into office space. He noted the hospital is licensed to operate a maximum of 30 beds and that after the new wing is completed, the hospital will still have 30 beds or less in service.
• Agreed to work on clearing the title to the district’s existing clinic building located on Main Street downtown Trinity. The board has discussed selling the property after the new professional building is completed and the staff of the clinic is relocated to the new facility.
Ward reported that when the property was given to the district in 2001, the new deed was never filed with the Trinity County Clerk’s office in Groveton. The transfer was being handled by the late C.H. Elliott and Ward said the new deed was prepared and signed but for an unknown reason was never filed.